Thomas Hilde

Thomas Hilde


Geology & Geophysics

1938 - 2020

Dr. Thomas Hilde grew up in Minot, North Dakota, and earned his undergraduate degree from San Diego State University. For a time he was employed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Later he took a job with the UN and went to Thailand and Taiwan. Along the way, he made the acquaintance of Seiya Uyeda. That led him to earn his PhD from the University of Tokyo under Seiya’s supervision. Tom joined the faculty at Texas A&M in 1977. 

Tom was a visionary. His dissertation project was the first reconstruction of sea floor spreading and plate tectonic evolution in the Pacific basin, a truly seminal work. With Roger Larson, he published the first Mesozoic magnetic reversal timescale. He was also an authority on the process of subduction; he was among the first to recognize the bending faults provide space for sediment subduction.

Before Tom’s arrival, Texas A&M had essentially no one on the faculty with interest or expertise in plate tectonics. In 1977 the College hired 4 new faculty members to fill the gap. Tom was charged by Dean Cook with starting what became, first, the Geodynamics Research Program, and later the Geodynamics Research Institute. Under Tom’s leadership, the program attracted more faculty, who offered a set of new courses in the Departments of Geology, Geophysics and Oceanography, one of which was a seminar on a fresh topic related to plate tectonics held each spring term. A purpose of the seminar was to prepare for a Geodynamics Symposium, held on the A&M campus in April of each year. Tom was the inspiration and driving force behind the symposium, which became a highly regarded and well attended international meeting. Tom’s brainchild put A&M on the map on the subject of geodynamics.

Tom retired in 2006, having served for nearly 30 years on the faculties of the departments of Oceanography, Geophysics and Geology & Geophysics.


The remembrance of Dr. Thomas Hilde was written by Professor Emeritus Rick Carlson.

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