Alexander Rankin Cameron
by Russ Dutcher
from TSOP Newsletter 18 (2), June 2001
As we move forward in our chosen professions, we meet many colleagues who become friends, professionally and oftentimes socially. Geology and closely allied fields seem to attract a large number of folks who are in their chosen field because they like the subject and in turn they enjoy imparting their knowledge to others — sometimes in a formal fashion through teaching and in publications. Genuine friendships develop. Every once in a while we meet someone who exhibits all of the traits that we hope all of us admire. A human being that we just know makes life a bit better for all of us and makes by their very presence the world a better place. Such a person was Alex Cameron.
Alex Rankin Cameron was born on January 24, 1927, in Toronto, Canada. At an early age Alex and his family moved to Nova Scotia, specifically to Cape Breton. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from St. Francis Xavier University, Cape Breton, in 1952. In the 1950s he worked as a student assistant for the Geological Survey of Canada. In 1954 he received his Master of Science degree from The Pennsylvania State University. His Ph.D. degree was conferred by Penn State in 1961. He had started full-time employment with the GSC in 1960.

With the exception of two years, his entire professional career was with the Geological Survey of Canada. He was a Visiting Professor at Southern Illinois University for a year and one half and a visiting scientist at Penn State for a six-month period. When he retired, Alex was head of the Coal Geology sub-division of the Survey. He retired with the rank of Emeritus Scientist in the GSC.

Dr. Cameron covered an extensive amount of territory while pursuing field work, primarily in Canada but also a fair amount in the U.S.A. He worked in almost all of the coalbearing areas of Canada and many of his 80-odd publications were to report the result of field investigations. Many of us knew tales about adventures in the field. The one that Alex would retell if prodded was returning to his helicopter with the pilot and field assistant to find a grizzly bear with an enormous interest in their transportation. They were downwind and a fair distance across open ground. They waited and finally were able to get safely to the aircraft.

While coal was the focal point for his geological efforts, his interests were wide ranging and varied. Topics ranged from geochemistry, paleogeography, and coal resources to carbonization, sampling techniques, and palynology.

Alex was pleased to share his knowledge and expertise with students at many colleges and universities. He served on graduate committees and worked with industrial representatives who were anxious to seek his help and insight regarding their problems. He did this willingly and effectively. His expertise and talents were recognized by many people and their organizations. From 1984 through 1989 he served as president of the Canadian Society of Coal Science and Organic Petrology. He was associate editor of the International Journal of Coal Geology from its inception in 1983 through 1995. The Hacquebard Medal was awarded to Alex by the Canadian Society of Coal Science and Petrology. The International Committee for Coal Petrology presented Alex with the Thiessen medal and the Coal Division of the Geological Society of America honored Alex with the Gilbert H. Cady award in 1997.

The Canadian Society of Coal Science and Organic Petrology established The Cameron Award in honor of the outstanding contributions made to his profession. Further recognition of Alex Cameron's contributions came with the special symposium held in his honor upon his retirement from the Geological Survey of Canada. The proceedings of this meeting were published as the Cameron Volume of the International Journal of Coal Geology, Vol. 24, numbers 1-4, 1993. In addition, Alex was editor of the Hacquebard volume of the International Journal of Coal Geology, vol. 19,1991.

In 1955 Alex married Catherine McDonnell of Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Alex was a devoted family man—very proud of all the family but never one to bore a group with tales of accomplishments. Alex Cameron was a special person — anyone who knew him misses him.