Stock, Chester

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(b, San Francisco, California, 28 January 1892; d. Pasdena, California, 7 December 1950),


Stock’s parents, John Englebert Stock and the former Maria Henriette Meyer, were natives of Germany; and he attended a Gymnasium as well as public schools until the earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed the family home and business and obliged him to go to work. In 1910 he entered the University of California, where the odors of the zoology laboratory discouraged him from premedical studies and John C. Merriam’s lectures whetted his interest in prehistoric animals. He published a paper on the ground sloths from the tar pits of Rancho La Brea before graduating in 1914; in 1917 he received the Ph.D. and joined the university faculty. When Merriam left Berkeley in 1921, Stock, by then assistant professor, took over his courses. He was called to a professorship at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 1926, and in 1947 he became chairman of its Division of Earth Sciences. He also served on the staff of the Los Angeles County Museum, becoming senior curator of earth sciences in 1944 and chief of the Science Division in 1949.

Stock married Clara Margaret Doud in 1921; they had a daughter, Jane Henriette, and a son, John Chester. His wife died in 1934; and in 1935 he married Margaret Wood, by whom he had a second son, James Ellery.

Stock’s early studies were on Pleistocene vertebrates, especially ground sloths, on which he published a major monograph in 1925; he also collaborated with John C. Merriam in a monographic study of saber-toothed cats. He continued Merriam’s program of exploration for vertebrate fossils in the Great Basin as well as along the Pacific coast, and extended these studies into northern Mexico. Stock’s discovery of Eocene land mammals in the Sespe formation of the Ventura basin and near San Diego, and his description of Oligocene mammals from Death Valley, extended the record of land animals on the Pacific coast far earlier than previously known Miocene remains.

Stock’s scientific publications consist largely of meticulous descriptions of fossil material, including careful documentation of its geologic occurrence and sound systematic conclusions. He also published several interpretive studies of the Rancho La Brea fauna and of various earlier mammalian assemblages.

Stock attracted many more students than could enter the field of vertebrate paleontology. He was always eager to explain his work to nonprofessional audiences; and his enthusiasm for the life of the past and his warm, cheerful personality won him many friends, within and outside the geological profession, who often supplied him with leads to new fossil occurrences. At the Los Angeles County Museum he was particularly concerned with developing an exhibition of fossil bones in situ at the tar pits in Hancock Park and with plans for the Hall of Evolving Life.

Stock’s honors included membership in the National Academy of Sciences and presidencies of the Paleontological Society of America (1945), the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (1947), and the Geological Society of America (1950), the latter a few weeks before his death.


I. Original Works. Stock’s writings include “Cenozoic Gravigrade Edentates of Western North America With Special Reference to the Pleistocene Megalonychinae and Mylodontinae of Rancho La Brea,” which is Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication no. 331 (1925); “Rancho La Brea, a Record of Pleistocene Life in California,” which is Los Angeles Country Museum Publication no. 1 (1930) 6th ed., 1956); and “The Felidae of Rancho La Brea,” which is Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication no. 422 (1932), written with John C. Merriam. His technical publications on Tertiary and Pleistocene faunas are in University of California Publications in Geological Sciences and Carnegie Institution at Washington Contributions to Paleontology. Eocene fossils are described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Full bibliographies are given in Simpson and in Woodring (see below).

II. Secondary Literature. See John P. Buwalda, in Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 35 (Mar. 1951), 775–778, with portrait; R. W. Chaney, in Yearbook. American Philosophical Society for 1951 (1952), 304–307; Hildegard Howard, in News Bulletin. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 31 (1951), 32–34, and in Quarterly. Los Angeles County Museum, 8 nos. 3–4 (1951), 15–18, with portrait; George G. Simpson, in Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 27 (1952), 335–362, with portrait; and Wendell P. Woodring in Proceedings. Geological Society of America for 1951 (1952), 49–50, 149–156.

Joseph T. Gregory.