I just returned from a remote camp working as an exploration geologist and learned of the death of Professor Heinrich Holland ’47 (Campus Notebook, Sept. 19). I would like to honor his memory with a tribute to his visionary genius and teaching skills.
I benefited immeasurably from my Princeton education. Nothing exceeded my experience with Professor Holland. In 1969 he mentored four geology undergrads who were researching factors influencing what we called global warming — a barely recognized phenomenon at the time. Then he went further and inspired me to research and write another report. He pointed out that the atmosphere is connected to the ocean and any increase in atmospheric CO2 would equilibrate with ocean CO2, then asked what would be the result.
After some quick figuring, my conclusion was that the ocean would become undersaturated in calcium carbonate within 45 years, resulting in coral reefs and seashells dissolving. I don’t know about the timing prediction, but recognition of this dynamic hit the newsstands only in the past few years. My senior thesis predicted that humans would fail the moral test of our age by not addressing global warming because the solution would require reigning in our rampant consumption, and that would not happen voluntarily in our materialistic culture.
Professor Holland was an excellent teacher and an inspiration to me. I regret not telling him that in person while I could have.