Bill Melson

Geologist Emeritus

Portrait of Bill Melson.

Bill Melson is geologist emeritus at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., where he has led geology tours to the Appalachians for the Smithsonian Associates and other organizations for the past forty years. Melson received geology degrees from Johns Hopkins University (BA) and Princeton University (PhD) and is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Mineralogical Society of America. With Brian Mason, he wrote the first textbook on The Lunar Rocks (Wiley and Sons) and served on NASA’s Apollo 14 Preliminary Examination team. His writings include chapters in the Smithsonian’s Book of the American Land  (Shenandoah Roots) and in the Smithsonian-National Geographic book Forces of Change (Global Synergies). The ongoing eruptions of Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica, are a major subject of his current research. Melson has worked in archaeology with Dr. Richard Potts on the origin of fused zones within the sediments at the Homo erectus site at Olorgesalie, Kenya.


Melson, W.G., Potts, R., 2002. Combustion metamorphism in the sediments of the Pleistocene Olorgesailie Basin, Southern Kenya Rift. Journal of Archaeological Science. 29, 307-316.

Melson, W., O'Hearn, T., Jarosewich, 2002, A data brief on the Smithsonian Abyssal Volcanic Glass Data File. Geochemistry, Geophysics and Geosystems. 3,10.

Melson, W.G., 2000. Global Synergies. In: Forces of Change, A New View of Nature. National Geographic Press, 79-92.

Haynes, J.T., Melson, W.G., O'Hearn, T., Goggin, K.E. Hubbell, R., 1998. A High-potassium Mid-Ordovician Shale of the Central Appalachian Foredeep: Implications for Reconstructing Taconian Explosive Volcanism. In: Shales and Mudstones II. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Germary, Stuttgart.

Melson, W.G., Post, J.E., Wise, M.A., Sorensen, S.S., Fiske, R.S., Luhr, J., MacPherson, G.J., McCoy, T., 1997. Diamonds to diamonds: a tour of the Smithsonian's new Geology, Gems, & Minerals Hall. Geotimes. 42, 16-21.

Haynes, J.T., Melson, W.G., 1997. SEM and EMX study of titaniferous minerals in the Ordovician Deicke K-bentonite of southwestern Virginia. Virginia Minerals. 43, 8.

Haynes, J.T., Melson, W.G., Goggin, K.E., 1996. Biotite phenocryst compositions shows that two K-bentonites in the Little Oak Limestone (Ordovician) at the Old North Ragland Quarry, Alabama, are the same structurally repeated tephra layer. Southeastern Geology. 36-2, 1-14.

Haynes, J.T., Melson, W.G., Kunk, M.J., 1995. Composition of biotite phenocrysts in Ordovician tephra casts doubt on the proposed trans-Atlantic correlation of the Millbrig K-bentonite (United States) and the Kinnekulle K-bentonite (Sweden). Geology. 23-9, 847-850.

Melson, W.G., 1992. The eruption of 1968 and tephra stratigraphy of Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. In: Sheets, P., McKee, B., (Eds.), Archaeology, Volcanism and Remote Sensing in the Arenal Region, Costa Rica. Texas University Press, Austin, pp. 350.

Sheets, P., Hoopes, J., Melson, W.G., McKee, B., Sever, T., Mueller, M., Chenault, M. and Bradley, J. 1992. Prehistory and volcanism in the Arenal area, Costa Rica. Journal of Field Archaeology. 18, 445-465.

Melson, W.G., Van Beek, V.B., 1991. Geology and the loessial soils, Tell Gemmeh. Israel. Geoarchaeology. V. 7, 121-147.

Hopson, C.A., Melson, W.G., 1990. Compositional trends and eruptive cycles at Mount St. Helens. Geoscience Canada. 17, 131-141.

Melson, W.G., 1979. Shenandoah roots. In: The American land, Smithsonian Exposition Books. Smithsonian Insitution, Wash. D.C., pp. 60-67.

Melson, W.G., 1970. America's sleeping volcanoes: National Wildlife Mag. Dec.-Jan.