Dr. Joshua Irving Tracey Jr.

Thursday, November 4, 2004
Dr. Joshua Irving Tracey, Jr.

Joshua Irving Tracey Jr., 89, of Arlington, Va., husband of Rector native Frances Louise (McBride) Tracey, died Thursday, Oct. 18, at Virginia Hospital Center of heart failure.

A noted geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, he was recognized for pioneering studies which helped support Charles Darwin's theory on the development of atolls.

In a citation for meritorious service, then-Secretary of the Interior Rogers B. Morton said, "Dr. Tracey's pioneering studies of reef limestone from drill core, coupled with related investigations, provided the first conclusive evidence supporting Darwin's classic coral-reef hypothesis. Through subsequent studies of other central and western Pacific atolls, and as co-leader of deep-sea coring expeditions, he has become a recognized authority on island and seafloor movements, geologic history, and mineral resources including island phosphates and distribution of deep-sea manganese nodules."

The son of the late Joshua and Grace Resh Tracey, Dr. Tracey was born May 5, 1915, in New Haven, Conn., where his father taught mathematics at Yale. Dr. Tracey was educated at the Hopkins Grammar School and went on to Yale University, where he received his A.B. in physics and mathematics in 1937, his MSc. in geology in 1943, and his Ph.D. in 1950.

With the outbreak of World War II, Dr. Tracey joined the United States Geological Survey. He was sent to Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas exploring for bauxite, the ore for aluminum, which was critically needed for the war. For two years after the war, Dr. Tracey worked under Harry Ladd doing core drilling on Bikini Atoll before and after the atomic bomb tests.

From 1951 to 1954, Dr. Tracey served the USGS as field party chief mapping the geology of Guam, the largst of the Mariana Islands. While on Guam, Dr. Tracey made surveying trips to Pagan, Fais and Ifaluk Atolls. During the 1960's, Dr. Tracey was involved with drilling on Midway Island in conjuction with the Department of Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

For several summers, Dr. Tracey did surveying of the Green River formation in Southwestern Wyoming. During the 1970's, Dr. Tracey was co-chief with George H. Sutton doing deep sea drilling in the Pacific on the Glomar Challenger, sponsored by the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling.

His other research involved expeditions to Enderbury and Enowetok Islands. He served as scientific advisor with the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Seabeds Committee, which met in Geneva in 1971. He also served several years as chairman for the Geologic Names Committee.

Dr. Tracey retired from the USGS in 1985 and was given office space in the Smithsonian Museum of National History, where he continued to write for several more years and where his papers were deeded to the Archives in 2002.

Among other scientific and social organizations, he was a member of Sigma Xi, Geological Society of America, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Explorers Club, the Cosmos Club, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and honorary membership in the International Society for Reef Studies.

Dr. Tracey was a member of Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, singing bass in the choir for over 50 years, having joined during WWII. He was a member of the Rustin Couples class in the church.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Frances Louise Tracey; two sons, Dan Britton Jones of Lancaster, Pa., and Douglas Irving Tracey of Flemington, N.J.; eight grandchildren; six great-grandchildren, and a sister, Mary Jane Mann of Peterborough, N.H.

A memorial service was held Friday, Oct. 22, at Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to "Yale Alumni Fund," c/o Madeline Spencer, P.O. Box 2038, New Haven, CT 06521, Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church or the First United Methodist Church of Rector. Please note "in memoriam of Joshua Tracey."