Thursday, December 14, 2017

Good-bye Dr. Conkin

On December 3 2017 12:12 PM EST James Elvin Conkin passed away at the age of 93. He was born October 14, 1924, in Glasgow, Kentucky, USA to Rachel Pauline (Hicks) and Basil Conkin. From what I can tell, he had a full and productive life through raising a family, teaching at the University of Louisville for 44 years and traveling the world. Image above was taken March 2012. His obituary can be found at this link.

I cannot recall when I first met Dr. James Conkin, a retired geology professor from the University of Louisville. If I remember, it was during his visit to Falls of the Ohio State Park fossil festival where he had a table where he sold his publications on paleontology. Some how or the other I started helping him photograph some of his microfossils for new publications he wanted to work on.

Here is a link about one of those documents: and it was followed with a 2012 Louisville Studies in Paleontology and Stratigraphy No. 23 Reconnaissance Studies of Paleozoic Foraminifera from China: Part 2 - The Middle Devonian and Carboniferous-Permian of Hunan, Guizhou, and Jiangsu.

Hunting for charophyte fossils in Louisville September 2011

Dr. Conkin gave me new insights on very small fossils called foraminiferas and charophytes. His last lesson for me was as you grow old, still maintain a curiosity of the world around you.

I will end this tribute with a quote from Dr. Conkin's 2006 book "I SEE... WONDERFUL THINGS".
Yet this celebration of enlightened ignorance is one with an eventual dreadful ending, both individually and collectively, but glorious until that time of the death of the individual or of our star system, or indeed all space and time. Let us rejoice until then in those "wonderful things" we see and in the old, old stories they tell as we continue to learn more and more of their "spoken babbles." Even the rocks themselves "sign." Though a complete mastery of all their divers formal tongues, dialects, and patois is unattainable, we can, nevertheless, revel in their exquisite syntaxial beauty and eloquence, even though only for our life's ephemeral tenure.


Anonymous said...

Nice post, Michael, I learned so much from him in the short time that I also was privileged to know him. His zest for knowledge must have been an inspiration for all who knew him. kenny

Anonymous said...

I too learned from him in the short time making his acquaintance, wish we'd met long ago! John M.

Unknown said...

It is sad to hear from this loss. I am very grateful to Dr. Conkin for allowing us at to show his drawings and images. I recall our one time meeting in May 2012 at his home very well. He was very supportive. I still have and use the papers (his publications) he gave me. His work will be remembered thru his publications and at

Thanks Michael Popp for having made the contact !

Michael Hesemann Project
Hamburg, Germany