Neely Bostick
Written by Paul C. Hackley
from TSOP Newsletter 41 (1), March 2024

Neely Bostick at the 1996 ICCP meeting in Heerlen.
Photograph courtesy of Alan Davis.
Neely Bostick passed away peacefully on September 3, 2023, with his wife Joyce at his side. Neely was 91 years old. Neely was a longstanding member of TSOP and ICCP, serving in several leadership roles for both organizations.

He was awarded the John Castaño Award from TSOP in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to research in organic petrology, including over 65 publications from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. Neely was an early member of TSOP and present at the first annual meeting in Tysons Corner Virginia in 1984.

Neely (circled in white) at the 1984 first annual meeting of TSOP in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Neely served TSOP as Vice-President, then President from 1985 to 1988, later returning to the TSOP Council as the Newsletter editor from 1993 to 1995. He also served on the balloting committee and TSOP’s research committee where he facilitated the inclusion of notes in the TSOP News related to ‘polishing or embedding techniques, comparisons of kerogen separation techniques, rock color as related to type and amount of kerogen, comparisons of microscope objectives, the effects of solvent extraction and acid treatment on kerogen properties, and the advantages and disadvantages of various immersion media.’ These lab notes appeared as letters to the fictional Dr. C.H.O. Anthracos in 1986, reflecting Neely’s wry sense of humor. Neely kept at it, writing on ‘Measured reflectance suppressed by thin-film interference of crude oil smeared on glass – as on vitrinite in coal or petroliferous rocks’ in TSOP News in 2011, fifteen years after he had retired.

Neely was widely regarded as a polyglot, and his translation of Marlies Teichmüller’s report ‘Fluoreszenz von Liptiniten und Vitriniten in Beziehung zu Inkohlungsgrad und Verkokkungsverhalten’ (Fluorescence microscopical changes of liptinites and vitrinites during coalification and their relationship to bitumen generation and coking behavior) was well received in the United States.

Neely conferring with Marlies Teichmüller, undated. Courtesy of Angeles Borrego.

Neely spent a year in Germany in the mid-1970s to establish a new organic petrology laboratory at KFA-Juelich with Chris Cornford. After retiring, he spent time in Kyrgyzstan in the mid-1990s to finish a project on coal resources and mining opportunities in the newly independent country, translating Kasharin’s ‘Coal geology in Kyrgyzstan during 70 years of Soviet power’ from the Russian.

Neely received his PhD from Stanford in 1970 for a study on ‘Thermal alteration of clastic organic particles (phytoclasts) as an indicator of contact and burial metamorphism in sedimentary rocks’, a work which introduced Neely to dispersed organic matter petrology and which formed the foundation of much of his early research in the 1970s. Neely invented the term ‘phytoclast’, now widely used and intimately familiar to all organic petrologists and palynologists. While at Stanford, Neely began work on reflectance changes of phytoclasts due to their thermal alteration through contact metamorphism by igneous intrusion, a subject which would follow him throughout his career. Also at Stanford, Neely was a member of the Alpine Club, reflecting his sense of adventure and love of challenges.

Neely and Marlies at the 1992 TSOP-ICCP meeting at Penn State, PA. Courtesy Alan Davis.

After his PhD, his professional career began at the Illinois Geological Survey (1970 to 1975) where he published research on dispersed organic matter petrology, thermal maturation, contact metamorphism of organic matter, and coal resources. While at the Illinois Geological Survey, Neely employed the concept developed during his PhD work of measuring phytoclast reflectance as a rank parameter for use in coal resource assessment.

In 1976, Neely began employment with the U.S. Geological Survey in Lakewood, Colorado, in the Branch of Petroleum Geology, where he continued until retirement in 1996. During his time
at USGS Neely performed research in dispersed organic matter petrology, contributing to many studies which supported petroleum resource assessment. This was the most productive phase of Neely’s career and also the height of his many contributions to ICCP and TSOP. In the ICCP, Neely served as secretary and also chair of the MOD (Matière Organique Dispersée ) activities of the ICCP in its Commission II, coordinating several round robin exercises from the early 1970s to early 1980s, including work to understand contact metamorphism effects to dispersed organic matter. Neely served as an informal liaison between TSOP and ICCP, writing summaries of the ICCP meeting activities for the TSOP Newsletter.

Neely (circled in white) at the 2007 Victoria meeting of TSOP-ICCP.

My own interactions with Neely came long after he had retired from USGS (in 1996). In 2006 and 2007, I traveled with a group from our Reston, Virginia, office out to Denver, Colorado, where Neely had spent his career. When Neely learned I was the ‘new’ organic petrographer in Reston, he took me under his wing. Thus, as he cleaned out his office, I was the immediate benefactor of various minutia of organic petrology, for example, correspondence on the proper refractive index of immersion oils. His sense of humor was always on full display, almost causing an international conflict when he reviewed the organic petrology review papers of Suarez-Ruiz et al. (published in 2012). And when I encountered Neely at the 2007 meeting of ICCP-TSOP in Victoria, Canada (where he was presented TSOP’s Castano Award) he borrowed my cell phone several times to check in with Joyce, running up my bill with international call charges, unbeknownst to both of us at the time.

Neely in Aachen 1988. Courtesy of Angeles Borrego.


Neely leaves behind his wife of three+ decades, Joyce Bostick of Morrison, Colorado. Neely and Joyce met at the Denver Civic Center through a shared love of folk dancing. Together they cared for
a menagerie, having at one time six Icelandic horses, several Siberian huskies, as well as Bouvier des Flandres.

The organic petrology community has lost in Neely Bostick a remarkable scientist whose work has stood the test of time.