Frances L. Parker (1906-2002) Picture provided by Wolfgang H. Berger
One of the pioneers in foraminiferal research, Frances Parker, made many scientific contributions to the field during her long and distinguished career. Currently the micropaleontological collection that includes Parker's specimens is held at Indiana State University (on loan from Scripps Institution of Oceanography).
Frances Lawrence Parker received an A.B. degree from Vassar College in 1928 in geology and a minor in chemistry. Two years later, Parker received a M.S. in geology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was at MIT that Frances Parker became Joseph Cushman's research assistant. With funding from the United States Geological Survey, Frances Parker began studying foraminifera at the Cushman Laboratory in Sharon Massachusetts. Here, she worked with several other students, including Fred Phleger. Her research became even more international in 1932 when Joseph Cushman and Frances Parker traveled to the European countries of Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungry examining specimens and meeting fellow researchers. Once back in the United States she spent her summers researching at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution between 1936 and 1940. During her ten years with Joseph Cushman the two successfully published 16 papers.
In 1943, after several offers, Frances Parker accepted a scientist position with Shell Oil Company. That same year, she was appointed Senior Paleontologist for Shell. In Houston she became interested in the ecology and application of micropaleontological tools to studies of environmental change. After contracting tuberculosis three years later she was forced to resign from her position. Fred Phleger offered her a job at Amherst College while she was recuperating in Boston in 1947. He wanted her to join him in researching foraminifera taxonomies of the Atlantic. Their work continued until 1949.
It was after her work with Fred Phleger that Francis Parker was asked to join Scripps Institution of Oceanography and it was at Scripps where she made some of her more well-known contributions to foraminiferal research.
December of 1950 Appointed Associate in Marine Geology
April of 1952 Appointed Junior Research Geologist
July of 1952 Appointed Assistant Research Geologist
July of 1960 Appointed Associate Research Geologist
July of 1967 Appointed Research Geologist
July of 1970 Appointed Research Geologist II
During her years at Scripps, she published over 30 papers as both an author and co-author. Returning to her roots, she edited Contributions from the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research from 1956 to 1963. Frances Parker retired from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1970 but she remained working in the lab for nearly a decade.
It was in 1960 the Frances Parker began what some believe to be her most significant contributions. Based on the absence and presence of spines on the outer shell, she developed a classification system of planktonic foraminifera. This taxonomic approach is now one of the most accepted classification schemes for Cenozoic planktonic foraminifera.
Frances Parker’s contributions received additional attention when the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) was initiated at Scripps in 1967. Although Frances only participated on one DSDP cruise, her stratigraphic work with planktonic foraminifera paved the way for correlations of cores taken around the globe. Her research in taxonomy, stratigraphy, ecology, sedimentology, paleoenvironments and biogeography along with her work on both benthic and planktonic foraminifera are regarded as classic publications.
Frances Parker received global recognition for her ground-breaking work. The Joseph A. Cushman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Foraminiferal Research was awarded to Frances in 1981. She was a fellow of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminifera Research and the Geological Society of America. The Frances Parker Program in Public Education in Earth Science at Scripps was started in 1999.