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Preston Ercelle Cloud, Jr. (September 26, 1912 – January 16, 1991) was an American paleontologist, geographer, and professor. He was best-known for his work on the geologic time scale and the origin of life on Earth.


Early life

Cloud was born in West Upton, Massachusetts and grew up in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania where he developed a love for the outdoors. Upon graduating from high school, Cloud spent three years in the United States Navy (1930-1933) where he excelled at boxing.


Higher education

Despite the difficulties of finding employment during the Great Depression, Preston paid for his own first semester at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

An influential figure in Cloud's life was Ray Bassler, a professor and the curator of paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History. Bassler noticed Cloud's interest in his work, and he arranged for the student to work at the museum. Later on, he worked with G. Arthur Cooper, a paleontologist and stratigrapher. Under Cooper, Preston learned much about fossils, especially those of brachiopods. He worked full-time at the museum, but he graduated in 1938, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. Cooper financially allowed for Preston to attend Yale University, which he did.

Cloud was a member of the National Academy for thirty years, he was chairman of the Geology Section and occupied positions in its Council and Executive Committee.



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