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An English translation of an article in Spanish is nothing unusual, but in this case the article is a eulogistic account of the translator’s former work. The translation was made mainly for the benefit of the translator’s family, as they have a natural interest in the subject matter but can’t readily read the Spanish text. Having embarked upon the translation of material so intimately related to myself, I could not help but insert some annotations — corrections, amplifications and afterthoughts. They are in the form of numbered [end]notes. The translation is a free one, trying to catch the authoress’ intent without sticking to her choice of words and phrases.

—R M S

A translation by RMS of:

R. M. Stainforth: Su contribución a la estratigrafía en Venezuela

( = “R. M. Stainforth: his contribution to stratigraphy in Venezuela”.)

A work presented at the

Second Session on the History of the Geological Sciences taking place on Tuesday, February 16, 1992 in the city of Caracas, Venezuela.

by Marianto Castro Mora, March, 1992



Short biography of Dr. Stainforth

Summary of the work achieved by Dr. R. M. Stainforth

Planktonic foraminiferal zones dealt with by Dr. Stainforth

Foraminifera described by Dr. Stainforth

Planctonic foraminifera

Benthic foraminifera

Species of Foraminifera dedicated to Dr. Stainforth

Planktonic Foraminifera

Benthic Foraminifera

Dr. R. M. Stainforth in Venezuela

Internal reports within Creole Petroleum Corporation

Asociación Venezolana de Geología, Minería y Petroleo (AVGMP)

Venezuelan geological congresses


American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Journal of Paleontology

The Micropaleontologist


Other publications




Dr. Robert M. Stainforth arrived to work in Venezuela for the first time on February 5, 1953, with an already large body of work accomplished in Trinidad, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. He arrived from Talara, Peru to make a six-months study for Creole Petroleum Corporation of the Oligocene and Miocene microfaunas in the Maturín sub-basin and to compare them with those already studied and described by him in the neighbouring island of Trinidad.

In the year 1957 he returned to Venezuela, contracted by Creole Petroleum Corporation to direct the stratigraphic laboratory at Jusepín, State of Monagas, in eastern Venezuela. In the discharge of this duty, beyond the work of identifying the microfaunas he dedicated himself to trying to interpret them and to be stratigrapher more than micropaleontologist, always interested in application, integration and regional descriptions.

His fruitful labours in Venezuela went beyond the limits of micropaleontology and stratigraphy, leading to concepts very advanced for their time, and numerous publications on regional geology and geotectonics in various journals of the international circuit, such as the AAPG Bulletin, Micropaleontology, Revue de Micropaleontologie, etc. He was the Venezuelan correspondent between 1962 and 1969 of the journal Micropaleontology. His interest in the geological fraternity led to his active participation as editor, for six consecutive years, and as president for one-and-a-half years of the Asociación Venezolana de Geología, Minería y Petroleo. He published nineteen articles in its Boletín Informativo.

The authoress, by means of this essay, wishes to pay homage to an outstanding student, a writer par excellence and a researcher, who honoured us with the contributions he made to our country.

Short biography of Dr. Stainforth

Dr. Stainforth was born on October 5th, 1915 in England, obtained his degree in geology at the young age of 23, and immediately crossed to America to begin his brilliant career working for Trinidad Leaseholds Limited in the island of Trinidad, which was then a British colony. He is married to Anne Stainforth and they have two children.

In this little hidden corner of the world, in a simple shed [1] surrounded by gardens, was where Dr. Stainforth and a farseeing group of young geologists gave birth to the revolutionary idea [2] of using planktonic foraminifera to establish ages, instead of the benthonic species used until then. It was in this isolated corner of the world, Trinidad-Venezuela, that most of the planktonic foraminiferal zonations, now in worldwide use, were generated. Dr. Stainforth worked in the laboratory at Pointe-à-Pierre from 1939 to 1944. [3]

From 1946 to 1948 he worked in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for the International Ecuadorean Petroleum Company, which assigned him for a short time to Egypt. From personal information from Dr. Virgil Winkler I know that this spell in Egypt was a fruitful one for Dr. Stainforth, yet frustrating in that he tried to apply the zonations developed in Trinidad and this resulted in some puzzlement. For a researcher like him, it was a challenge to decipher the stratigraphy of Egypt, and as a result in 1949 he published a paper on Egypt in the AAPG Bulletin.

At the beginning of 1949 he was working for the Tropical Oil Company in Bogotá, Colombia and later moved to the International Petroleum Company in Peru, at first in Negritos, later (1950-54) in Talara. During these years he completed numerous published papers and internal reports. In 1952 he was awarded an external Ph.D., at the age of 37, by the University of London… In February, 1953 he came to Venezuela for the first time, to spend six months studying the Oligocene and Miocene microfaunas.

From 1955 to 1957 he worked for the Carter Oil Company in Billings, Montana, U. S. A.

From November, 1957 to July 1969 he was working for Creole Petroleum Corporation in Venezuela, at first as head of the stratigraphic laboratory at Jusepín, State of Monagas. Later he was transferred to Maracaibo, before joining the regional-studies group at the head office in Caracas.

His colleagues remember Dr. Stainforth as, above all, a worker and a writer, never far from his old typewriter. Any idea, short article or report would be typed several times to be passed around among his colleagues so as to interchange opinions and thus generate research projects. He was always addressed as “Charlie” and we have the word of Drs. Winkler, Furrer and León that he did not respond to his surname and that his second name is not even recorded in the company files. When he presented papers, equally in Venezuela and abroad, he signed them simply “R. M. Stainforth”. He had a characteristic gesture of entwining his index and middle fingers in an up-and-down “V” motion when consulted or asked about anything.

He was not a socially active person, but he joined in the meetings and festivities normal in oil camps and in city life. As a supervisor he was exacting but fair, and internal Creole reports contain letters in which he praises and recommends studies completed by his assistants.

[retired to Victoria in July, 1969 — consultant, in part for EXXON - retired completely in 1985 — now living on Victoria Island (sic) with his wife Anne.]

[the next page of the manuscript is a tabulated summary of RMS’ movements]

Summary of the work achieved by Dr. R. M. Stainforth

From 1939 to 1944 [4] Dr. Stainforth was working in the Pointe-à-Pierre laboratory of Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. on the island of Trinidad. At that time and since many years, the benthic foraminifera were used exclusively as indicators of age and environment in studies of surface and subsurface geology. The planktonic foraminifera were disregarded in all the sediments because of their seemingly constant morphology and their assumed and inferred long life-ranges. The world’s initial step towards study of the planktonic forms was achieved in Trinidad in the paper [5] on the Cipero Formation by Cushman & Stainforth, 1945. The authors erected the genus Globigerinatella and its species insueta (the genotype), which later acquired great stratigraphic importance. They made age determinations based on three (3) zones of molluscs and large foraminifera, from their field observations. They made an informal subdivision of successive sequences, based on the pelagic foraminifera of the Cipero Formation, into the zones of Globigerina concinna, which represented the lower Oligocene; Globigerinatella insueta, which represented the middle and upper Oligocene; and Globorotalia fohsi, which was tentatively dated as upper Oligocene. This publication of Cushman & Stainforth was the first in an interlinked set of works appearing from 1945 to 1959, in which the study of planktonic foraminifera and their stratigraphic significance made its start on the island of Trinidad. Numerous unpublished manuscripts, internal reports and research projects by Renz and Stainforth date from this period, according to a personal communication from Dr. Hans Bolli.

1942 saw the beginning of a series of publications by Cushman & Todd, Cushman & Renz, Cushman & Stainforth and Cushman & Bronnimann on species and assemblages of the small foraminifera of Trinidad. These publications were highly important as a step towards practical biostratigraphy.

In 1946 Cushman & Stainforth compared Discocyclina and Archaeolithothamnion in an assemblage containing Amphistegina elliotti (later referred to Helicostegina) from the middle Eocene of Estero Polio in Ecuador with a Discocyclina assemblage in the upper Scotland Formation of Barbados, which showed clear affinities.

In 1948 Stainforth issued a magnificent description of the Oligocene of the Cipero Formation in Trinidad. He also described the Nariva, San Fernando and Brasso Formations. In the same year he analysed the middle Eocene to upper Miocene foraminifera of coastal Ecuador, referring to the stratigraphic distribution of pelagic and benthic species in Trinidad and Barbados. This work is very well illustrated and is a fine contribution to the correlation of Tertiary deposits of the Pacific coast of South America with the Caribbean region. He wrote at that time: “The value of the pelagic species lies in their wide lateral distribution, arising from their mode of life. When these organisms died, they immediately became part of the fossil fauna on the sea floor, whether the local facies happened to be neritic, lagoonal, reefal, or of whatever type. In the two principal families of the pelagic foraminifera, the Globigerinidae and the Globorotaliidae, the successive appearances and extinctions of species in the Tertiary facilitate creation of a practical zonation based on their life ranges. The genuine regional value of this zonation is clearly demonstrated by the parallel distribution of species in the mid-Tertiary of Ecuador, in the extreme west of northern South America, and in the island of Trinidad.”

In 1949 the use of planktonic foraminifera and radiolaria for age-zonation was again stressed, and he applied benthic (‘benthonic’) foraminifera as indices of depth of deposition of the Cipero Formation of Trinidad. In the same year he published on the foraminifera of the upper Tertiary of Egypt and on the nomenclature of Pullenia and Cibicides.

In January of 1950 he wrote an article expressing his belief that dating by means of planktonic foraminifera could establish a basis for very precise inter-regional correlations, on a worldwide scale. He drew attention to the problems of homeotypy and heterotypy, which reduce the value of benthic microfossils in long-range correlations.

In 1951 Stainforth & Cushman re-examined the specimens referred to the benthic species Anomalina subbadenensis in the Cipero Formation of Trinidad, re-identifying it as Globorotalia mayeri. In October of the same year he wrote an article on the great value of planktonic microfossils for zonation, drawing attention to the desirability of better study of the radiolarians which, together with the foraminifera, could be excellent zonal markers on a world-wide scale. Arising from this paper, Dr. Martin F. Glaessner, who already in 1937 had made the same point in a paper entitled: “Planktonforaminiferen aus der Kreide und dem Eozän und ihre stratigraphische Bedeutung” (Univ. of Moscow), made contact with Dr. Stainforth. They jointly referred to the high value of planktonic foraminifera for regional correlations, as is demonstrable by numerous worldwide examples.

In January of 1952 he published an article on the ecology of the arenaceous foraminifera, dividing them into two groups. “The first consists of small arenaceous foraminifera with flimsy walls. Faunules of this group are only known in brackish facies, as in the Mississippi and Orinoco deltas. The second group consists of rich faunas of the Textulariidae, Valvulinidae, Ammodiscidae and Reophacidae, in particular”. He recognized presence of this turbiditic facies in Trinidad and compared it with the … Capiricual Formation of the Sta. Anita Group in Venezuela, analogous to the Nariva Formation of Trinidad; the Mal Paso Formation of Peru; the La Estancia Formation of Ecuador; the Alpine flysch of Austria and the Oligocene flysch of Italy; the Czarnorzeki beds in Poland; and deposits in the Jagara geosyncline of Japan. In October of that year, while employed in Peru, he took time off to obtain his Ph.D. from the University of London, based on a long thesis [6] entitled: “Interpretive methods in applied micropalaeontology”.

Planktonic foraminiferal zones dealt with by Dr. Stainforth

Named in stratigraphic order, Dr. Stainforth described the following zones with planktonic foraminifera:- [RMS: With respect, I must say that the authoress’ statement [ed: in this section] is not quite clear and I believe the following summary is more correct. (Though I concerned myself greatly with matching sequences of index species, I took little part in the erection of formally-defined zones.)

Cushman & Stainforth (1945) referred to the range-zones of Globigerina concinna, Globigerinatella insueta and Globorotalia fohsi. Zonation of the interval has been greatly refined, but these units are still discernible in the modern schemes — for instance Bolli & Saunders (1985). [7] Their age-range has been revised as Oligocene to mid-Miocene.

Stainforth (1948) referred to the interval above extinction of Globorotalia fohsi as the Globorotalia menardii Zone. Bronnimann (1951) modified its definition and later authors have divided G. menardii sensu lato into many distinct forms. Age of this zone has been revised from early to late Miocene.

Stainforth et al. (1975) mainly accepted zones erected by other authors but made some minor modifications.]

Foraminifera described by Dr. Stainforth

Named in this chapter are some of the types described by Dr. Stainforth during his brilliant career as micropaleontologist.

[A list follows containing the names of three genera (Buliminellita, Globigerinatella and Orthomorphina) and about eighty species. [8] With only a couple of exceptions they were published under joint authorship, especially with Dr. J. A. Cushman who was the doyen of foraminiferal studies in those days.]

Planctonic foraminifera

Globigerinatella Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Globigerinatella insueta Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Globigerinatella insueta Cushman & Stainforth emend. Hofker, 1954.

Globorotalia praemenardii Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Benthic foraminifera

Anomalina alazanensis Nuttall var. spissiformis Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Annulopatellina advena Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Ammovertella retrorsa Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Cassidulina caudriae Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Chrysalogonium asperum Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Chrysalogonium ciperense Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Discorbis ciperensis Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Dorothia brevis Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Ellipsoglandulina robustior Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Ellipsolagena barri Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia acuta (Reuss) var. bisenta Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia crenulata (Coryell & Rivero) var. multispinata Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia flintiana (Cushman) var. indomita Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia flintiana (Cushman) var. plicatura Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia kugleri Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia pannosa Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Entosolenia spinolaminata Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Gaudryina pseudocollinsi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Globorotalia praemenardii Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Gyroidina altispira Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Gyroidina complanata Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Gyroidina girardana (Reuss) var. perampla Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Gyroidina jarvisi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Hormosina glabra Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Karreriella alticamera Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Lagena ciperensis Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Lagena crenata Parker & Jones var. capistrana Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Lagena pulcherrima Cushman & Jarvis var. enitens Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Lagena rutschi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Lagena striata (d’Orbigny) var. basisenta Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Lagena waringi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Marginulina sublituus (Nuttall) var. multicamerata Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Nodogenerina rohri Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Nodosarella reflecta Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Nodosaria lamellata Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Orthomorphina rohri Cushman & Stainforth, 1945

Planulina renzi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Plectofrondicularia morreyae Cushman var. exigua Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Plectofrondicularia nuttalli Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Plectofrondicularia nuttalli Cushman & Stainforth var. acuta Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Plectofrondicularia ruthvenmurrayi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Pleurostomella bierigi Palmer & Bermúdez var. hebeta Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Pleurostomella praegerontica Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Pullenia trinitatensis Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Pyrulina cylindroides (Roemer) var. curvatura Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Rectogumbelina inopinata Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Schenckiella suteri Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Virgulina ciperana Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Vulvulina guppyi Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Uvigerina ciperana Cushman & Stainforth, 1945.

Amphistegina elliotti Cushman & Stainforth, 1946

Palmerinella thalmanni Stainforth & Stevenson, 1946.

Planulina wheeleri Stainforth & Stevenson, 1946.

Technitella archaeonitida Stainforth & Stevenson, 1946.

Bulimina secaensis Cushman & Stainforth, 1947

Robulus insuetus Cushman & Stainforth, 1947

Plectofrondicularia dentifera Cushman & Stainforth, 1947

Bolivinopsis pulchella Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Buliminellita Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Buliminellita mirifica Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Bulimina lineata Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Bulimina acutangularis Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Bulimina decurtata Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Plectofrondicularia dentifera Cushman & Stainforth, 1947.

Pullenia duplicata Stainforth, 1949.

Buliminella peruviana Cushman & Stone var. obesa Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Nonion ecuadoranum Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Plectina nuttalli Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Pleurostomella ecuatoriana Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Psammosphaera eocenica Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Pyrgo pseudoinornata Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Quinqueloculina orbiculata Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Valvulineria eocenica Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Valvulineria peruviana Cushman & Stone var. discrepans Cushman & Stainforth, 1951.

Orthomorphina Stainforth, 1952.

Species of Foraminifera dedicated to Dr. Stainforth

Numerous investigators in this special field have paid homage for the future to the work and dedication of Dr. Stainforth in his fruitful professional career. Below are named in chronological sequence some of the species which were named for him:

Planktonic Foraminifera

Globigerina stainforthi Bronnimann, 1952

Globigerina stainforthi Hofker, 1956

Catapsydrax stainforthi Bolli, Loeblich & Tappan, 1957

Globigerinita stainforthi (Bolli, Loeblich & Tappan) subsp. praestainforthi Blow, 1969

Benthic Foraminifera

Nodosaria stainforthi Cushman & Renz, 1941

Valvulina stainforthi Cushman & Renz, 1947

Sporobulimina stainforthi Stone, 1949

Schenckiella stainforthi Weiss, 1955

Nonionella stainforthi Hofker, 1956

Genus: Stainforthia Hofker, 1956

Stainforthia dalliformis Hofker, 1956

Valvulineria stainforthi Hofker, 1956

Palaeonummulites stainforthi Eames et al., 1968

Dr. R. M. Stainforth in Venezuela

Coming from Talara, Peru he arrived in Caracas on February 5, 1953 to work for Creole Petroleum Corporation for a few months. Two weeks later he moved to the geological laboratory in the Jusepín oil camp, where he studied the Oligo-Miocene microfaunas of the Maturín sub-basin. After applying and adapting the pelagic foraminiferal zonation of Trinidad to the Oligocene of northern Monagas, he left Jusepín to spend two weeks with colleagues in Trinidad before returning to his base at Talara.

He continued working for the International Petroleum Company at Talara into 1954, and then for the Carter Oil Company at Billings, Montana, U. S. A. in 1955-57.

In 1957 he returned to Venezuela on contract with Creole again (Employee #64-72-338) as head of the stratigraphic laboratory at Jusepín, effective November 1st. In this role Dr. Stainforth, beyond the identification of fossils, devoted himself to trying to interpret their stratigraphic significance, always concerned with the application, integration and regional interpretation of his findings.

His most important work in this phase, which has stood the test of time and is currently of great practical use in the exploratory activity of Lagoven S. A., was the zonation established in the Carapita Formation. Dr. Stainforth worked on samples from the type section in Quebrada Carapita, State of Anzoátegui, determining ages from early to middle Miocene. He worked in the subsurface, where this formation consists almost wholly of dark grey to black calcareous shales with a high content of foraminifera indicative of Oligocene to mid-Miocene age.

He established the following zones (older to younger):-

a.   Globigerina ampliapertura

b.   Globorotalia opima opima

c.   Globigerina ciperoensis ciperoensis

d.   Globorotalia kugleri

e.   Catapsydrax dissimilis

f.    Globigerinatella insueta

      Catapsydrax stainforthi

g.   Globorotalia fohsi

h.   Globorotalia mayeri

      Globorotalia menardii

He described sequences of facies-faunas, “faunules”, which reflect changes of ecological factors and have no intrinsic age significance. He designated the deposits of greatest water depth the “Cipero facies” from their similarity to the Cipero Formation on the nearby island of Trinidad. For deposits in depths from 70 to 1000 fathoms he used the term “normal Carapita faunule”. The two shallow-water assemblages were denominated the “Bolivina-Cibicides-Uvigerina” and the “Robulus-Eponides” faunules.

He went to work in Maracaibo, State of Zulia, where he made extensive studies of the Eocene of Lake Maracaibo.

After that Creole transferred him to the head office in Caracas to work in the regional-studies group. This was perhaps his period of greatest creativity, when he not only published articles on stratigraphy, but also began to introduce themes such as diastrophism, continental drift, sea-floor spreading, etc. so that he became a pioneer of his time.

This continued until 1969 when, at the end of July, he exercised his right to retirement. However, his creativity and geological zest led him to work as a consultant in Victoria, Canada, partly on contract with Exxon. He is now completely retired and lives with his wife Anne on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Internal reports within Creole Petroleum Corporation

…the following list presents the titles of his reports in chronologic sequence:-

1953    Micropaleontological study of the subsurface Oligocene in the Greater Jusepín area

1953-69           biostratigraphic reports for wells drilled in the oilfields of Quiriquire, Jusepín and Pedernales and in Lake Maracaibo, especially in the Eocene section

1958    Précis of the geology of Trinidad Geology of the Gulf of Paria

1959    Re-evaluation of oil prospects of the Gulf of Paria. A refinement of the Carapita zonation (prepared jointly with J. L. Lamb and J. A. Sulek). Estado actual de las correlaciones transatlánticas del Oligo-Mioceno por medio de foraminíferos planctónicos

1960    A revised appraisal of Creole’s Capacho-Urica area Trinidad oil prospects of the east coast

1961    A final evaluation of the Capacho-Urica area

1962    Habitat of oil in Eastern Venezuela (in two volumes, prepared jointly with A. Salvador)

1964    Creole’s heavy oil position and notes on the Tar Belt (in three volumes prepared jointly with F. J. de Joia)

1965    Clues in Venezuela to the geology of Trinidad and vice versa (prepared jointly with A. Salvador for presentation at the IV Caribbean Geological Conference, Trinidad, 1965)

1968    Eocene stratigraphy of the Maracaibo Basin (prepared jointly with J. A. Sulek)

1969    Geology of the Gulf of Venezuela

            Geología general y estratigrafía de la formación Carapita, Venezuela oriental (prepared for later presentation at the IV Congreso Geologico Venezolano)

Asociación Venezolana de Geología, Minería y Petroleo (AVGMP)

Dr. Stainforth was the soul and the driving force of the bulletin (Boletín Informativo) of the AVGMP. His active membership began in December, 1958 while he was head of the Jusepín laboratory, when G. A. Young was president of the Asociación.

During the nine years from 1961 to 1969 he published articles on a variety of subjects in the bulletin (as listed below). He was elected its editor at the annual meeting in 1963 and thereafter at successive meetings until 1969.

In August 1966 he gave a talk on the gravitational deposits (also called “secondary” or “tectonic” deposits) in Venezuela and showed how their study can elucidate the history of a region, specifically the Eastern Venezuela Basin. In November, 1967 he gave a brief account of the 4th Mediterranean Neogene Congress and the Planktonic Conference held recently in Bologna and Geneva, respectively.

At the 1968 annual meeting Dr. Stainforth was elected president of the Asociación. He expressed his thanks for the honour and his hopes for a fruitful future for the AVGMP. He expressed pleasure that, for the first time, a lady had been elected to the council, namely Dra. María de Lourdes Diaz de Gamero. Dr. Murani, who had been elected the new editor, was unexpectedly transferred to New York and Dr. Stainforth therefore resumed the post of editor “for a short time”, but actually for a whole year.

In January 1969 Dr. Stainforth and Dr. Clemente González de Juana gave a summary of the 5th Caribbean Geological Conference held in the Virgin Islands. In March, 1969 Dr. Stainforth relinquished his posts as editor and president but remained on the council. In July the AVGMP council awarded him a plaque [9] in gratitude for his most valuable work as editor for six consecutive years and as the 1967-68 president.

The bulletin faded away, bit by bit, after losing its driving force, Dr. Stainforth. In 1977 its publication was suspended but it was renewed with Volumes 20 and 21 for 1978 and 1979. The latest issue was Vol. 23 covering the years 1980 through 1983.

In chronological order the articles published by Dr. Stainforth in the AVGMP Boletín Informativo are as follows

1961    4/ 8      The Cretaceous/Tertiary and Oligocene/Miocene boundaries in Venezuela

1962    5/ 8      The Upper Eocene of the Guajíra Peninsula

            5/10     Definitions of some new stratigraphic units in Western Venezuela

1964    7/ 9      Origin of the name Peñas Blancas Formation

            7/11     Discussion of the age of the Roraima Formation

1965    8/ 9      Chapopotal Member, new name for Cachipo Member of Carapita Formation (Jointly with J. A. Sulek)

1966    9/ 6      Occurrence of pollen and spores in the Roraima Formation of Venezuela and British Guiana

            9/ 7      The Guárico Formation of North Central Venezuela (jointly with A. L. Peirson and A. Salvador)

            9/10     Gravitational deposits in Venezuela

            9/12     Contributions of the AVGMP Maracaibo Basin Eocene Nomenclature Committee (jointly with W. M. Walton)

1968            La estratigrafía del Eoceno de la Cuenca de Maracaibo. Artículo I, Introducción. In “Publicación especial, No. I”.

            11/ 9    El desarrollo de la terminología estrátigrafica en el Estado Lara

            11/12   Editorial. Despedida.

1969    12/ 2    Resúmenes [10]

            12/ 3    Informe del presidente sobre el período 1968-1969

            12/ 4    Ages of the Upper Tertiary and Quaternary formations in Venezuela [11]

            12/ 6    Resúmenes

            12/7     Resúmenes

            12/ 8    The concept of seafloor spreading applied to Venezuela

Venezuelan geological congresses

Dr. Stainforth took a very active part in the two Venezuelan geological congresses organized during his time in this country. He not only contributed to the preparations, but also took part in the commissions on general geology and stratigraphy.

His published contributions were as follows:-

1960    Estado actual de la correlaciones transatlánticas del Oligo-Mioceno por medio de foraminíferos planctónicos. 25 pp. [12]

1971    La formación Carapita de Venezuela oriental. 31 pp.


Dr. Stainforth knew the importance of integrating data and he used a very broad-scale approach in his work. This led him to give talks beyond our frontiers, especially at the Caribbean geological conferences.

At the 4th Caribbean Geological Conference, held in 1965 at Port of Spain, Trinidad, Amos Salvador and R. M. Stainforth presented a study entitled “Clues in Venezuela to geological problems in Trinidad and vice versa”. They discussed the identification from the stratigraphic sequence in Venezuela of formations only know as remnants in Trinidad; the geology of southern Trinidad by extrapolation from eastern Venezuela; and the regional significance of the main structural elements in Trinidad, with special reference to the Los Bajos and El Pilar faults. They showed the benefit to Venezuela of the planktonic foraminiferal zonation developed in Trinidad; interpretation of Miocene subsurface formations by comparison of their equivalents in Trinidad; the probable Jurassic-Cretaceous age of the barren Caracas Group, based on scarce fossils in similar metamorphics in northern Trinidad. They also referred to the significance of turbiditic sequences in both countries. At the same conference Dr. Stainforth presented a paper on mid-Tertiary diastrophism in northern South America. Its theme was that local patterns of diastrophism can now, by using the planktonic foraminiferal zones, be tied together to reveal a broad-scale pattern on emergences and subsidences.

The works in question, published belatedly (1968) in the Transactions of the conference are:-

Salvador, A. & Stainforth, R. M. Clues in Venezuela to the geology of Trinidad and vice versa. 10 pp.

Stainforth, R. M. Mid-Tertiary diastrophism in northern South America. 16 pp.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Dr. Stainforth was a member of AAPG since 1941 and published the following works in its Bulletin:-

1948    Description, correlation and paleoecology of Tertiary Cipero Marl Formation, Trinidad. 39 pp.

1951    Review of “Contribución al estudio del Cenozoico cubano” by Pedro J. Bermúdez. 2 pp.

1953    Review of “Estudio sistemático de los foraminíferos Rotaliformes” by Pedro J. Bermúdez. 2 pp.

            Mid-Oligocene transgression in southern Peru. (Jointly with W. Ruëgg). 2 pp.

            Review of “The general and economic geology of Trinidad” by H. H. Suter. 3 pp.

1955    Ages of Tertiary formations in northwest Peru. 10 pp.

1956    Meaning of the word Stratigraphy. 2 pp.

1958    Stratigraphic concepts: a discussion. 1 p.

1964    Subdivision of Miocene. 2 pp.

1965    Internal publications on the geology of Venezuela. 6 pp.

1976    Unreliability of Globigerinoides datum. (Jointly with J. L. Lamb). 6 pp.

1978    Was it the Orinoco? 4 pp. [13]

Journal of Paleontology

Dr. Stainforth had nine articles published in this journal, viz.

1946    Three new foraminifera from the Tertiary of Ecuador. 6 pp. (jointly with F. V. Stevenson)

1948    Applied micropaleontology in coastal Ecuador. 39 pp.

1949    Foraminifera in the Upper Tertiary of Egypt. 4 pp.

            Nomenclatural notes on Pullenia and Cibicides. 3 pp.

            The Hannatoma fauna in the Zapotal Sands of southwest Ecuador. 2 pp.

1950    Types of Pullenia duplicata Stainforth. 1 p.

            Comments on “A pitfall of paleontologic Latin”. 2 pp.

1951    Tertiary foraminifera of coastal Ecuador: Part I - Eocene. 36 pp, (jointly with J. A. Cushman) [14]

1956    Genus Stainforthia Hofker. 1 p.

The Micropaleontologist

Dr. Stainforth was the correspondent for Peru, from 1951 through 1954, of the occasional periodical The Micropaleontologist edited by the Department of Micropaleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In addition to news articles about paleontological activities in Peru, he published short articles with the following titles:

1949    Work in comfort.

            Further notes on fossil Globigerina oozes.

1950    Is more concerted effort possible in establishing the regional significance of planktonic foraminifera as indices of geological age?

1951    Growth of recognition of the zonal value of planktonic microfossils

1952    Ecology of arenaceous foraminifera.

            “Personalities” and “Help wanted”

1953    Globigerina mexicana Cushman, an Eocene index fossil.


[RMS: This major journal evolved out of the little Micropaleontologist under the enthusiastic editorship of Drs. Brooks F. Ellis and Angelina R. Messina.]

Dr. Stainforth was a correspondent for this journal for more than ten years, in the following stages:

1955 -              for the north-central area of the U. S. A.

1955-7 -          for the Rocky Mountains region of the U. S. A.

1962-4 -          for Venezuela

1965-7 -          for Venezuela and Trinidad

1968-9 -          for Venezuela until April, 1969, when with retirement imminent he handed over to Dr. Max Furrer.

His only technical contribution (1955) was on the value of an editorial board. His periodical “News reports from Venezuela” gave a summary of paleontological activities in Venezuela, mentioning and summarizing published articles of paleontological interest. As we can see, Dr. Stainforth lent prestige and importance to the achievements in this country. His old typewriter opened a window to the world, revealing and extolling the researches undertaken in Venezuela.

Other publications

[Titles in chronological sequence. Bibliographic details not repeated, as they are given in the original paper.]

1945    (jointly with J. A. Cushman)
The foraminifera of the Cipero Marl Formation of Trinidad, British West Indies. 75 pp.

1946    A new species of Amphistegina from the Eocene of Ecuador. 3 p

1947    A new genus and some new species of foraminifera from the Upper Eocene of Ecuador. 4 pp.

1952    Classification of uniserial calcareous foraminifera. 9 pp.

1953    The basis of Paleogene correlation of Middle America. 16 pp.

1954    Comments on the Caribbean Oligocene. 1 p.

1956    Genus Chiloguembelina Loeblich & Tappan. 1 p.

1960    The American Oligocene. 2 pp.

            Current status of transatlantic Oligo-Miocene correlations by means of planktonic foraminifera. 12 pp.

1974    Nomenclature of some large Eo-Oligocene Globigerinas. 9 pp.

1975    (jointly with P. J. Bermúdez)
Aplicaciones de foraminíferos planctónicos a la bioestratigrafía del Terciario de Venezuela. 17 pp. [15]

            (jointly with J. L. Lamb, H. Luterbacher, J. H. Beard & R. M. Jeffords)
Cenozoic planktonic foraminiferal zonation and characteristics of index forms. 425 pp. [16]

1978    (jointly with J. L. Lamb & R. M. Jeffords)
Rotalia menardii Parker, Jones & Brady, 1865 (Foraminiferida), proposed suppression of lectotype and designation of neotype. 9 pp.

1981    (jointly with J. L. Lamb)
An evaluation of planktonic foraminiferal zonation of the Oligocene. 34 pp.

1982    (jointly with K. Sztrakos & R. M. Jeffords)
Globigerina cerroazulensis Cole, 1928 and Globigerapsis tropicalis Blow & Banner, 1962 (Foraminiferida): proposed conservation. 5 pp.


It would not have been possible to complete this work without the positive and efficient collaboration of Drs. Max Furrer, Virgil Winkler, Vernon Hunter, Hans Bolli and Hernan León, who knew and in most cases were colleagues of Dr. Stainforth, not only in Venezuela but also abroad in other fields of study. The managements of exploration and assessment of the geology department of Lagoven S. A., in the persons of Ramón Gutiérrez and Carlos Sánchez, who supported this well-deserved tribute from the first moment.

Further acknowledgments go to:

Rosina Pitelli, who searched in the files of Maraven S. A. for reports and studies by Dr. Stainforth;

Abraham Aguiar, who gave his valuable time to reading the manuscripts and offered useful suggestions;

my laboratory colleagues María del Pilar Stifano and Juan Alexis Escalona, who always backed me and encouraged me in the laborious bibliographic research;

Lagoven S. A., who financed the study; and to all those who in one way or another collaborated in the compilation and eventual publication of this effort.

Throughout this article is depicted a whole life dedicated to the study, investigation and deep love of geology. At a time when [photocopying] facilities did not exist, let alone word-processors and computers for storing data, to simplify correcting and editing, Dr. Stainforth was able to generate all this volume of published papers, internal reports for the companies employing him, and unpublished studies.

This essay only compiles the most important works of Dr. Stainforth and the most relevant details of his outstanding professional career, since making a full summary is virtually impossible, given his boundless creativity, his work mystique, and his lifelong talent of good writing. [17]


[1] “sencillo galpón” = “plain shed” is a fanciful description of the small but efficient geological laboratory at Pointe-à-Pierre.

[2] The authoress implies here that I was the originator of the concept that planktonic microfossils make ideal age indicators, but this is not so. The theme was already being developed before I arrived in Trinidad, particularly by Hans Renz but also by the Shell (U.B.O.T.) staff. Hans Kugler, as chief geologist, was instrumental in permitting and encouraging the T. L. L. staff to publish their findings. Shell was more reticent, though eventually Tom Grimsdale presented a key paper at the World Petroleum Congress in 1951. Mine was the luck to work in several widespread countries in quick succession and to be permitted to publish on the faunal sequences encountered.

[3] Just for the record, these dates are not quite correct and should be :

1938-45 Trinidad
1945-47 Ecuador
early 1948 Colombia, then Peru to 1954
1954-57 Billings, U. S. A.

Also, ESSO sent me to France for a few months in 1955 and my work there supplemented the developing theme of planktonic zonation.

[4] As before. To be noted is that the companies named from 1945 to 1969 were all interrelated affiliates within the international ESSO (later EXXON) group.

[5] But see reference below to an earlier paper by Glaessner (1937) which made the same basic point but, being published in an obscure journal, failed to achieve the wide recognition that it deserved.

[6] I was proud of my thesis but it was never formally published, although ESSO eventually had it reproduced as an internal report distributed to all its geological laboratories. As a footnote to this footnote I might mention that a Peruvian colleague later drew my attention to the fact that the word “interpretive” should properly have been “interpretative”, but this orthographic error passed unnoticed by the London University authorities.

[7] Bolli, H. M. & Saunders, J. B., “Oligocene to Holocene low latitude planktonic foraminifera”, Chapter 6 in Bolli, H. M., Saunders, J. B. & Perch-Nielsen, K., Plankton Stratigraphy, 1032 pp., Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985.

[8] A family footnote. On the wall of my daughter’s home near Piacenza in Italy hangs a copy of the geological-survey map of that area. In its margins are notes on the outcropping formations, including names of their characteristic fossils. Among these I found “Dorothia brevis Cush. & Stain.” ! !

[9] I still treasure the plaque, and anyone entering my room would notice it immediately, showing a facsimile of the cover of the Boletín Informativo — issue of April, 1963 — with my portrait superimposed.

[10] A feature of the Boletín under my editorship was inclusion of anonymous bilingual reviews of all published articles with any bearing on Venezuelan geology. I took pride in being up to date and complete in coverage of the literature. Dr. Carlos Key provided translations into Spanish. I suspect that the few “Resúmenes” ( = reviews) cited here were issued under my name after I had vacated the editorial chair.

[11] The title is unimpressive, but this “Ages…” paper encapsulated the outcome of our long campaign to establish direct worldwide correlations by means of zones based on planktonic microfossils. The actual ages of post-Eocene units in the Americas are substantially younger than the dates given to them fifty years ago. “Mid-Oligocene” has become early Miocene; “early Miocene” is now late Miocene; “late Miocene” and “Pliocene” belong to the Pliocene-Pleistocene.

[12] The 1960 paper was published in English shortly afterwards in the French Revue de micropaleontologie. I wish the same were true of the 1971 paper, but its translation into English was never accomplished.

An obstacle to re-publication was its content of several large fold-in illustrations, the bane of most editors. Furthermore, my quota of author’s separates never reached me, so this paper is only known to readers with access to the whole memoir of the congress. This has saddened me somewhat because I set forth my invention of a stratigraphic technique that I christened “zonulation”. The idea is that facies-controlled faunas (“faunules”) can contribute to age-determination if one assesses their role within a specific space-time continuum.

[13] Why an interrogative title? Authors had consistently assumed, not unreasonably, that ancient deltaic deposits in E. Venezuela and Trinidad represented the forerunner of the mighty Orinoco River. I contended in this paper that a river system more to the south, possibly the Essequibo, was a more likely source.

[14] Sequels describing the post-Eocene foraminifera were intended but they never appeared. Dr. Jan Hofker Sr. eventually prepared a manuscript, but it was very bulky and had his own idiosyncratic stamp, so no willing editor could be found.

[15] In the Spanish “Revista Española de Micropaleontología”, of which I was an honorary editor since its inception. With difficulty I persuaded Dr. Enrico Perconig to release me long after I had fully retired. This paper was one of a suite which I organized, covering as much of South America as possible.

[16] This monograph has been referred to irreverently as “the Gospel according to St. Ainforth”. The author of this paper had no reason to mention that, while still an undergraduate in 1938, I published a paper (Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association) on the crinoid Uintacrinus in the chalk of East Yorkshire. As its name implies, it is an American form of this planktonic/ nektonic genus and its presence in England exemplifies the value of such organisms (fossilized) as geological age-indicators.

Adding this one to those listed above, my publications spanned six decades. They were published in 19 journals in 8 countries, viz. England (4), France (1), Peru (1), Spain (1), Switzerland (1), Trinidad (l), U. S. A. (8) and Venezuela (2).

[17] This is embarrassing stuff, but Spanish is a more fulsome language than English! Despite the disclaimer, the paper seems to give a full coverage of my contributions to the geology of Venezuela. The only significant omission that occurs to me concerns the second edition of the Léxico Estratigráfico de Venezuela ( = Stratigraphic Lexicon of Venezuela). A large committee started on revision of the first edition, but in the end Clemente González de Juana and I did all the horse work in conjunction with the Bellizzias at the Ministry of Mines. I seem to recall publishing a review of the new version in the AAPG Bulletin, but the author doesn’t list it (p. 25). The Ministerio sent me a morocco-bound copy of the Léxico as a memento.