John R. Castaño
June 10 1926 - April 20 1997
from TSOP Newsletter 14 (2)
June, 1997
He was a rare individual, thoroughly likable, dependable as a friend, and a seemingly inexhaustible source of knowledge in our field." These words on the TSOP web-site describe John R. Castaño, our friend and colleague, who passed away unexpectedly on April 20, 1997 in Houston, Texas. We are saddened to no longer have his friendship, consultation, help and wit, but we retain the things which he contributed and can celebrate his numerous accomplishments. John, known to some of us as Jack, was a founding member of TSOP; however, his early experience was not in organic petrology. A New York native, John received his Bachelor of Science in Geology from City College of New York (It is reported that he enjoyed reverting to his "native" accent at opportune moments).

John attended Northwestern University by which he was awarded his Master of Science in Geology with the thesis topic Experiments on the Deposition of Iron with Special Reference to the Clinton Iron Ore Deposits. It was at Northwestern that John met his wife, Loretta.

John's career with Shell Oil Company began in 1950 in Casper, Wyoming, as a stratigrapher and well site geologist. A few months later he pursued Stratigraphic and petrographic studies for one year at the Shell Bellaire Lab in Houston. John's involvement in geochemistry began during his assignment to Bakersfield, California, which lasted from late 1951 through 1960. As a "special problems" geologist he integrated petrography, stratigraphy, structure and geochemistry. John was among the first Shell geologists to study turbidites.

From 1961 to mid-1965, John was based in Seattle where his principal work involved south Alaska. John spent five months in the field and established the Stratigraphic framework for Cook Inlet and other basins. At this time, John was also conducting source rock-oil correlation studies. It was during John's Los Angeles assignment (1965-1973) that organic petrography became a part of his career. John was responsible for introducing coal petrographic methods to Shell in 1967. Some years later with Peter Johnson and Al Killi, he developed a maturity based classification for structureless organic matter which is used routinely at Shell.

John was the first project leader of the Geochemistry Services Group at the Shell Bellaire Lab. Under his direction it grew from four people in 1973 to over twenty in 1984. Notable among his considerable accomplishments as project leader was the construction of the pyrolysis/flame ionization detector instrument, the introduction of quantitative fluorescence spectral analysis and the establishment of a functioning computerized geochemical database.

In 1984 John joined the Hydrocarbon Charge Section at the Bellaire Lab where his assignment included research on the transformation of petroleum, consulting for Shell's operating companies and teaching duties within Shell's training program. In this year he was also elected as TSOP vice-president. On October 1, 1986 John chose to retire from Shell during a severance and early retirement program. A colleague remembers his decision was influenced by knowing that his retirement would prevent a younger person from receiving a severance package. John gave 36 years of service to Shell (a close friend revealed, however, that John routinely bought his gasoline at Conoco!).

John's "retirement" career was exceptionally vital and active. He served as TSOP President in 1986. Shortly after retirement from Shell, John accepted the position of Chief Scientist for the Swedish Deep Gas Project to which he provided the needed experience and objectivity for this controversial undertaking. Beginning in 1988, he worked part time for DGSI. He was instrumental in developing DGSI's kerogen microscopy and C7 gas chromatography analytical protocols and interpretive techniques. John represented DGSI at professional society meetings and conferences throughout the world.

Remembrances of John include his tremendous interest in and support of young scientists and students; his warm welcome of new TSOP members; his exceptional talent as a storyteller; his love of opera and support of the Houston Opera Guild.

John was not only very active in TSOP, but also in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, the International Committee for Coal Petrology, and he was a fellow of the Geological Society of America. From 1978 - 1980 he was a member of the National Academy of Science's U.S. National Committee on Geochemistry.

In acknowledgment of our great respect for him, TSOP awarded John honorary membership in 1985. TSOP's honorary membership was later named the John R. Castaño Award in his honor. The Castaño Award is highest honor of The Society for Organic Petrology,it is awarded to persons distinguished in a scientific discipline of significance to the Society, in recognition of their contributions in research, service to TSOP, or education.