Obituaries

In Remembrance: Floyd F. Sabins Jr. ’55PhD Died on February 4 2019

Floyd F. Sabins Jr. died on February 4, 2019.  He was an American petroleum geologist, educator, and author who was a pioneer in the development, application, and advocacy for the field of geological remote sensing. 

Floyd was born on January 5, 1931, in Houston, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1952 with a BS in geology and went on to earn a PhD in geology from Yale University in 1955. He met his wife Janice in New Haven, Connecticut, while studying at Yale and they married on October 2, 1954. 

Floyd and Jan had two children, Barbara and Edward. He loved his family and was a proud grandfather to four grandsons, Robert and Eric Belfield and Connor and Spencer Sabins.

Floyd worked for Chevron in La Habra, California, for 37 years and was fortunate to travel the world and work on many projects. He was proud to be on the discovery teams for Chevron’s propects in the North Slope of Alaska, and the Hawtah Trend complex, Raghib Oil Field, and Dilham Oil Fields in Saudi Arabia. He was also a key player in the exploration success at the Hedinia and Agogo Oil Fields in Papua, New Guinea.

Floyd’s parallel career within Chevron’s mineral division was no less impressive. He worked on the discovery teams for copper deposits at Ujina and Collahuasi in northern Chile, as well as the El Penon gold deposit also in Chile. Significant discoveries were also made by Floyd and the Chevron team for boron and lithium deposits at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, along with multicommodity exploration targeting using remote sensing in Peru and Mexico. 

Following retirement from Chevron, Floyd remained active as a consultant for private and government agencies.  Notably, from 2010 to 2013, supported by the US Department of Defense and the USGS, Floyd guided processing and interpreted multispectral and hyperspectral imagery of over 25 sites across Afghanistan, finding new mineral exploration targets to promote economic development.

Floyd became involved in the higher educational system starting as an adjunct professor in 1966 in the geological sciences department, University of Southern California, and later as a regent’s professor with the earth and space sciences department at UCLA in a teaching role concurrent with his Chevron position. 

He was a giant among other remote sensing experts and an entertaining field guide for trips to remote sensing sites in the western United States. He led many field trips under the auspices of the Geological Society of America, ERIM, NASA, and JPL to classic test sites including Cuprite, Virginia City, Yerington, and Death Valley, often giving insightful presentations on the outcrop with imagery on display. 

One of Floyd’s other lasting professional contributions includes the landmark book entitled Remote Sensing Principles and Interpretation, first published in 1978 at the dawn of earth‑looking satellite technology. It was the first textbook on the subject of geological remote sensing at university level. 

Subsequent editions of the text won critical acclaim as one of the top five geoscientific books in print and is still considered the gold standard of geological remote sensing textbooks along with a detailed laboratory manual that has been used by multiple generations of teachers and students world-wide. Floyd was nearly finished completing the fourth edition of his landmark text with coauthor Jim Ellis and it will be published later this year.

Floyd received a number of honors and professional awards, notably the William T. Pecora Award by NASA and US Department of Interior in 1983 for his “outstanding contributions in education, science, and policy formulation to the field of remote sensing.” This award is the highest recognition in the field of remote sensing in the United States. A decade later in 1993 Floyd received the Chevron Chairman’s Award for his “contribution to the discovery of a major copper deposit in Chile.” This is Chevron’s highest achievement award.

With all of his professional and academic accomplishments, Floyd always considered himself first and foremost a field geologist, due to his early training at the University of Texas and during his dissertation while at Yale mapping the Cochise Head Quadrangle in southeast Arizona. 

In his spare time Floyd loved to fish and traveled the world to many exotic and storied fishing spots, with each photo of his catches becoming larger and more colorful than the last. He volunteered for many organizations, including Trout in the Classroom, St. Jude Hospital, the Southern California Bluebird Club, and MADD, to name a few. He was especially proud of growing and maintaining his impressive collection of fern plants in his back yard.

Floyd will be greatly missed by family, friends, and colleagues. He is an inspiration to all those who follow the career path of geological remote sensing and those who aspire to a life well-lived.

—Submitted by the family.

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