Sharp, Robert P(hillip) 1911-2004

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SHARP, Robert P(hillip) 1911-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born June 24, 1911, in Oxnard, CA; died May 25, 2004, in Santa Barbara, CA. Geologist, educator, and author. Sharp made significant contributions in the study of how geological features are formed on Earth and on other planets, notably interpreting photographs from the Mars Mariner expedition to speculate that water had at one time flowed on the planet's surface. He earned his B.S. and M.S. at the California Institute of Technology in 1934 and 1935 respectively, followed by an M.A. in 1936 and a Ph.D. in 1938 from Harvard University. After graduation, he taught at the University of Illinois for five years, followed by three years in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, he taught for a year at the University of Minnesota before returning to Cal Tech in 1947. Sharp spent the rest of his academic career there, serving as chair of the geology department from 1952 to 1967 and retiring as professor emeritus in 1979. As a geologist, Sharp studied all types of land formations, ranging from glaciers to sand dunes. In the 1930s, he participated in a Grand Canyon expedition that resulted in the greater understanding of erosion processes during the Precambrian era; later, he studied how mountain glaciation affects the landscape of the Midwest, and he also helped explain why sand dunes in the Mojave Desert are shaped and located as they are. During the late 1960s, Sharp was on the team that assisted NASA in understanding the photos brought back by the Mariner spacecraft. This work led to his being awarded the Exceptional Science Achievement Medal from NASA in 1971. Other honors received by Sharp include the 1977 Penrose Award from the Geology Society of America and the prestigious National Medal of Science, which he earned in 1989. Sharp published a number of books during his career, including Glaciers in the Arctic (1956), Coastal Southern California: Field Guide (1978), Living Ice: Understanding Glaciers and Glaciation (1988), and Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and Owens Valley (1997), written with Allen F. Glazner.



Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2004, p. B12.

New York Times, June 14, 2004, p. A21.