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Obituary: Emeritus Professor Geoff Norris, former chair of the department.


Geoffrey Norris, 1937 – 2023


headshot of geoff norris

Geoff Norris, Professor Emeritus, passed away at home on June 26, 2023.

Geoff was an important leader in our Department, serving two terms as Chair from 1980-1990. He joined the department in 1967. After graduating with his doctorate at Cambridge, Geoff worked for the New Zealand Geological Survey as a palynologist, then briefly in industry in the United States, before moving to Canada to take up a professorship initially at McMaster and then U of T. As Chair of the department Geoff made several notable and forward-thinking hires of faculty and staff during that time, and played a key role in the move from the Mining Building into the Earth Sciences Centre in 1989. He was heavily involved in the design of the new building and ensuring that it would meet Earth Sciences faculty needs at the time of the move but also in future generations. The design of the new building and moving into it was a massive undertaking, and was highly successful, for which we have Geoff to thank. He retired in 2003 and continued to be active with his research as an emeritus professor

Geoff was highly regarded for his research in the areas of palynology, micropaleontology and biostratigraphy. He was a pioneer in the early study of fossil dinoflagellates and contributed significantly to their modern understanding as vital tools in biostratigraphy and paleonvironmental analysis. Geoff’s lengthy publication record includes important contributions on dinoflagellate systematics, acritarchs, Cretaceous and Cenozoic palyno-floras, and paleoclimatic inference. Geoff also published a monograph on the Mesozoic geology of the Moose River Basin and co-authored the highly cited and the still standard guide “Quaternary Pollen and Spores of the Great Lakes Region”. His work nimbly transcended different geological time periods. Over his lengthy career, Geoff inspired and mentored many students, postdocs and visiting scientists with his enthusiasm and innovative ideas.

A celebration of life will be held on July 29, 2023 from 2-6 p.m. at 18 Concorde Place, Toronto. If desired, donations may be made towards a scholarship, to the Chair of the Earth Sciences department, Attn: Sarah Finkelstein, that will be established in his name for Geology students within the Department of Earth Sciences who may be experiencing financial hardship. Make a donation to the Geoffry Norris Memorial Award Fund.


An obituary was published in the Globe and Mail.

Geoff will be greatly missed, and we continue to benefit from the lasting impacts he had on the Department of Earth Sciences here at UofT and on the broader geoscience community.