April 26, 2024 Jutta Zipfel

Burkhard Bruno Otto Dressler passed away peacefully on 17 April 2024 in Nanaimo (British Columbia, Canada). His wife Bärbel Dressler was by his side, and his two sons, Wolfram and Andreas, sent him love from afar. 

Burkhard was the second of three siblings born to Hildegard and Gotthard Dressler of Schweidnitz, formerly in Eastern Germany (now Poland). He received his PhD in Petrology, with a specialization in Impact Cratering studies, from the University of Munich/ Technical University of Munich in 1970. The extensive field work for his dissertation was on the petrology and shock attenuation at the Manicouagan impact structure in Quebec, Canada. In the following decades, Burkhard would emerge as a prominent figure in the study of impact structures in Ontario, Labrador, Quebec, the High Arctic of Canada, South Africa, and then in Mexico. During his long and successful career, he published 56 refereed articles and chapters in monographs, 26 of which were dedicated to his impact studies.

From 1970 to1975, Burkhard Dressler worked for the Quebec government on the Proterozoic Labrador Fold Belt. By 1975, he, Bärbel, and two young children had relocated to southern Ontario where he continued his career as a field geologist for the Ontario Geological Survey. He pursued mapping in the Southern, Superior, and Grenville provinces of Ontario. His work included detailed mapping within the Sudbury Structure, where he focused on impact breccias and shock metamorphism, shock distribution and attenuation, and the origin of the Sudbury Igneous Complex.  

From 1981 to 1995, Burkhard’s career progressed to positions of Supervising Geologist to Section Chief, and then Chief Geologist, of the Precambrian Geoscience Section in the Ontario Geological Survey. He continued his research on the Sudbury impact structure, which culminated in a series of fundamentally important and, still today, frequently referred chapters in the seminal Special Volume 1 of the Ontario Geological Survey, 1984, entitled “The Geology and Ore Deposits of the Sudbury Structure”. During this time, he also shared his Sudbury expertise with numerous graduate and postgraduate students, and researchers from many countries.

Having attended the 1987 Cryptoexplosions and Catastrophes Workshop in the Vredefort Impact Structure in South Africa, Burkhard and some colleagues conceived the concept of the quintennial Large Meteorite Impacts and Planetary Evolution conferences. The first two of these conferences were held in 1992 and 1997 at Sudbury, under Burkhard´s chairmanship. He was also instrumental in editing the subsequent conference proceedings volumes, which were published as Geological Society of America Special Papers. This tradition has carried on until today.  

In 1983, as Section Chief of the Precambrian Geoscience Section, he first met Buck Sharpton, who reflects on Burkhard´s impressive field mapping and petrographic laboratory skills. In 1995, Sharpton invited him to work at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston on a three-year visiting scientist position, and Bärbel joined him for this sojourn. During this time, he and Sharpton secured research grants from NASA and Canada’s Polar Continental Shelf Project that funded the study of several large terrestrial impact structures, most notably the Haughton structure on Devon Island, the Slate Islands structure, Manicouagan’s central melt sheet, and the Chicxulub structure. This research was highly productive and resulted in several publications. 

Toward the end of his time at LPI, Burkhard, Sharpton and a number of international colleagues initiated a deep drilling project at Yaxcopoil, near the center of the Chicxulub structure on the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico. From 2001-2002, Burkhard served as chief scientist at the Chicxulub ICDP Yaxcopoil-1 drilling site. Burkhard spent countless hours documenting the 900 meters of intact core that were recovered in this international research effort. His meticulous descriptions of these cores provided an essential context for the large number of research papers that have since been published about this drilling, including several authored by himself. For his efforts in impact cratering research, a 7-km wide mainbelt asteroid was named after Burkhard [15359 Dressler (1995 GV2)].

Between 2000 and 2002, Burkhard worked as a visiting researcher with Uwe Reimold and his team at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (South Africa). They conducted highly productive structural investigations including field study of the pseudotachylitic breccias in the Witwatersrand region and especially, in the Vredefort impact structure. Burkhard and Uwe eventually published two seminal works entitled “Terrestrial Impact Melts and Glasses” and “Order or Chaos? Origin and Mode of Emplacement of Breccias in Floors of Large Impact Structures”. In 2009, Burkhard Dressler was nominated by his peers for the Barringer Medal and Award of the Meteoritical Society – for his outstanding contributions to impact cratering studies.

Burkhard Dressler is remembered as the loving, loyal husband to Bärbel Dressler, a kind and affectionate father to his sons, and as a rigorous, enthusiastic geologist. Burkhard’s many collaborations and research outputs have left an indelible impact within the field of impact science. Wherever he went, Burkhard formed lasting friendships. Burkhard, you are terribly missed. 

Wolfram Dressler

24 April 2024

Categories: In Memoriam