Chen-Lin Chou
1943 - 2019
Written by Shifeng Dai

Dr. Chen-Lin Chou, an outstanding scientist in the fields of geochemistry and coal geology, passed away unexpectedly of cardiac arrest at the age of 75 on the evening of May 31, 2019. 

Chen-Lin Chou was born on October 8, 1943, in Jiangsu Province, China, the eldest son of 8 children.  He journeyed from Shanghai to Taiwan with his family when he was just 5 years old.

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Geology from National Taiwan University in 1965, he traveled to the United States of America. While a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, he met Susan Wen and they were married on June 14, 1970.  

He received many honors over the course of his graduate studies, but the crowning achievement was the coveted Nininger Meteorite Award for his original paper entitled "Gallium and Germanium in the Metal and Silicate Phases of L- and LL- Chondrites: Implications for the Thermal History of the Chondrites." In 1971, he not only received his PhD in Geochemistry, but his daughter Cynthia was born. The young family drove across the country for him to start his academic career at the University of California Los Angeles, and drove again across the country in 1975 to Toronto, Canada, where his son Peter was born in 1976. He was busy with research and teaching at California State University, Fullerton, University of Toronto, and McMaster University. Four years later he settled in Champaign, IL, where he was a Geologist in the Illinois State Geological Survey studying the geochemistry and coal geology of the Illinois Basin until his retirement in 2002. By then he had already been around the world many times, but in 2002 his travels came full circle. He returned to the small town of Jiangyin in Jiangsu Province to visit his birthplace in China, and was so moved to see that the house in which he was born was still standing. 

He began his collaborative research with colleagues in East Asia in 1993 when he accepted a visiting professorship at the National Central University in Taiwan. He held academic appointments at the China University of Mining and Technology (Beijing), University of Science and Technology of China, Taiyuan University of Science and Technology, China University of Geosciences, Anhui University of Science and Technology, Suzhou University, and Western Kentucky University. In 1997, he was elected Fellow to the Geological Society of America. He was consultant to the Exploration and Development Research Institute of Taiwan, and served on the editorial board for Journal of Palaeogeography. Chen-Lin joined the editorial board of International Journal of Coal Geology in 2010. His great knowledge of geoscience was a valuable asset to the journal, consistently delivering timely, careful and insightful comments to authors of manuscripts he reviewed. Chen-Lin co-edited the special issue of the 23rd Annual Meeting of The Society for Organic Petrology for International Journal of Coal Geology (2008, vol. 73, p. 1-98).  

Chen-Lin’s knowledge of geoscience was profound. Through his over 130 publications and extensive collaborations, he made many important contributions to the science of meteorites, elemental and isotopic geochemistry, coal geology, and ore deposit geochemistry, as well as the impact of coal mining and coal utilization on the environment and human health. Of particular note, his work on the origin, distribution, and mode of occurrence of sulfur in coal was recognized and cited by many geologists around the world. For example, his paper “Sulfur in coals: A review of geochemistry and origins” (International Journal of Coal Geology, 2012, vol. 100, p. 3–21) was listed in the top 1% of highly cited papers on the Web of Science. His co-authored paper “Geochemistry of trace elements in Chinese coals: A review of abundances, genetic types, impacts on human health, and industrial utilization" (International Journal of Coal Geology, 2012, vol. 94, p. 3–21) was also recognized as one of “The Most Influential 100 International Papers in 2012 in China,” selected from 190,100 international peer-reviewed publications. 

Chen-Lin attended a number of annual meetings of The Society for Organic Petrology (TSOP), including as one of organizers of the 2006 TSOP annual meeting in Beijing where he was not only instrumental to the arrangement of the technical sessions of the meeting, but also to the field trip to the Datong Coalfield in Shanxi Province.   

Chen-Lin also taught university courses, and was invited to lecture and chair scientific meetings, including delivering the keynote address at international symposiums held in China. He was also the first to organize a series of scientific meetings called the Cross-Straits Conference on Resources and Environmental Geochemistry, bringing together scientists from Chinese Mainland and Taiwan for the first time in history. 

We particularly wish to acknowledge how well he mentored numerous young professors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students. He generously helped anyone who asked with regards to presenting lectures, analyzing elemental data, running experimental facilities, and reviewing manuscripts. He was always ready and willing to discuss how to approach answering a yet unanswered scientific question, and enthusiastically joined in field practice and field investigations. Chen-Lin’s optimistic and kind smile, patience, and straightforward manner made him stand out among his peers, having such genuine excitement for the process of geological investigation and scholarship among scientists.

Chen-Lin was a deeply philosophical man who devoted his life to his family and his true passion for science and scholarly pursuits.  He led a most distinguished career in the geosciences, and will be missed by all who were privileged to know and work with him.