MIT EAPS Directory

Samuel Bowring

Professor of Geology

Sam Bowring is a Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bowring uses high-precision U-Pb geochronology to reconstruct the history of the Earth in deep time, from the formation of the planet’s earliest crust to the time scales of major biotic radiation and extinction events. He is known particularly for pushing the limits of geochronologic techniques to the highest analytical precision and accuracy ever achieved and for his exceptional talent as a field geologist. He is also highly regarded for his work on the origin and evolution of continental crust and the calibration of the geologic time scale.  Bowring was born and grew up in Durham, New Hampshire. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Geology in 1976, from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology with an M.S. in 1980 and from University of Kansas with a Ph.D. in Geology in 1985.  He was an Assistant Professor at Washington University from 1984 to 1990. In 1991 he took up a faculty position at MIT.

Research Description

Sam Bowring is a geologist interested in using U-Pb geochronology to constrain the rates of geologic processes and to calibrate the timing of significant events in the geologic record.  His unwavering pursuit of the highest possible capabilities in U-Pb geochronology has allowed him to investigate the explosion of multi-cellular life in the Early Cambrian – the single most important evolutionary event in Earth history – and to examine the mechanisms of the most significant catastrophic events in the history of life: the end-Permian and the end-Cretaceous mass extinctions. His relentless efforts as a field geologist in the Northwest Territories of Canada led to an understanding of the processes involved in the early growth of continental crust recorded in the 4 billion-year-old Acasta gneisses. Bowring’s interests also extend to environmental applications of tracer isotopes using the isotopic composition of Pb, Sr, and U in natural waters to examine the fate and transport of contaminants.


Tiantian Wang, Jahandar Ramezani, Chengshan Wanga, Huaichun Wu, Huaiyu He, Samuel A. Bowring (2016), High-precision U–Pb geochronologic constraints on the Late Cretaceous terrestrial cyclostratigraphy and geomagnetic polarity from the Songliao Basin, Northeast China, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 446, 15 July 2016, Pages 37–44, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.04.007

Michael P. Eddy, Samuel A. Bowring, Robert B. Miller and Jeffrey H. Tepper (2016), Rapid assembly and crystallization of a fossil large-volume silicic magma chamber, Geology, First published online March 9, 2016, doi: 10.1130/G37631.1

F.Ö. Dudás, S.A. LeBlanc, S.W. Cartera, S.A. Bowring (2016), Pb and Sr concentrations and isotopic compositions in prehistoric North American teeth: A methodological study, Chemical Geology, available online 7 March 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2016.03.003

Ault, A. K. and Flowers, R. M. and Bowring, S. A. (2015) Synchroneity of cratonic burial phases and gaps in the kimberlite record: Episodic magmatism or preservational bias? Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 410, pp. 97-104, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.11.017

Barclay, R. S. and Rioux, M. and Meyer, L. B. and Bowring, S. A. and Johnson, K. R. and Miller, I. M. (2015) High precision U-Pb zircon geochronology for Cenomanian Dakota Formation floras in Utah Cretaceous Research, vol. 52, pp. 213-237, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2014.08.006

Burgess, S. D. and Bowring, S. A. and Fleming, T. H. and Elliot, D. H. (2015) High-precision geochronology links the Ferrar large igneous province with early-Jurassic ocean anoxia and biotic crisis Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 415, pp. 90-99, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.01.037

Condon, D. J. and Schoene, B. and McLean, N. M. and Bowring, S. A. and Parrish, R. R. (2015) Metrology and traceability of U-Pb isotope dilution geochronology (EARTHTIME Tracer Calibration Part I) Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 164, pp. 464-480, doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2015.05.026

Day, M. O. and Ramezani, J. and Bowring, S. A. and Sadler, P. M. and Erwin, D. H. and Abdala, F. and Rubidge, B. S. (2015) When and how did the terrestrial mid-Permian mass extinction occur? Evidence from the tetrapod record of the Karoo Basin, South Africa Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, vol. 282, no. 1811, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0834

Joel W. DesOrmeau, Stacia M. Gordon, Andrew R.C. Kylander-Clark, Bradley R. Hacker, Samuel A. Bowring, Blair Schoene, Kyle M. Samperton (2015) Insights into (U)HP metamorphism of the Western Gneiss Region, Norway: A high-spatial resolution and high-precision zircon study, Chemical Geology, vol. 414, pp. 138-155, doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.08.004,>

Eldrett, J. S. and Ma, C. and Bergman, S. C. and Lutz, B., et al. (2015) An astronomically calibrated stratigraphy of the Cenomanian, Turonian and earliest Coniacian from the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, USA: Implications for global chronostratigraphy Cretaceous Research, vol. 56, pp. 316-344, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2015.04.010

Jacob, K. H. and Farmer, G. L. and Buchwaldt, R. and Bowring, S. A. (2015) Deep crustal anatexis, magma mixing, and the generation of epizonal plutons in the Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, vol. 169, no. 1, doi: 10.1007/s00410-014-1094-3

Landing, E. and Geyer, G. and Buchwaldt, R. and Bowring, S. A. (2015) Geochronology of the Cambrian: a precise Middle Cambrian U-Pb zircon date from the German margin of West Gondwana Geological Magazine, vol. 152, no. 1, pp. 28-40, doi: 10.1017/s0016756814000119

Landing, E. and Rushton, A. W. A. and Fortey, R. A. and Bowring, S. A. (2015) Improved Geochronologic Accuracy and Precision for the ICS Chronostratigraphic Charts: Examples from the late Cambrian-Early Ordovician Episodes, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 154-161

Lehrmann, D. J. and Stepchinski, L. and Altiner, D. and Orchard, M. J., et al. (2015) An integrated biostratigraphy (conodonts and foraminifers) and chronostratigraphy (paleomagnetic reversals, magnetic susceptibility, elemental chemistry, carbon isotopes and geochronology) for the Permian-Upper Triassic strata of Guandao section, Nanpanjiang Basin, south China Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, vol. 108, pp. 117-135, doi: 10.1016/j.jseaes.2015.04.030

Machlus, M. L. and Ramezani, J. and Bowring, S. A. and Hemming, S. R. and Tsukui, K. and Clyde, W. C. (2015) A strategy for cross-calibrating U-Pb chronology and astrochronology of sedimentary sequences: An example from the Green River Formation, Wyoming, USA Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 413, pp. 70-78, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.12.009

McLean, N. M. and Condon, D. J. and Schoene, B. and Bowring, S. A. (2015) Evaluating uncertainties in the calibration of isotopic reference materials and multi-element isotopic tracers (EARTHTIME Tracer Calibration Part II) Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 164, pp. 481-501, doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2015.02.040

Rioux, M. and Bowring, S. and Cheadle, M. and John, B. (2015) Evidence for initial excess Pa-231 in mid-ocean ridge zircons Chemical Geology, vol. 397, pp. 143-156, doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.01.011

Rioux, M. and Jons, N. and Bowring, S. and Lissenberg, C. J. and Bach, W. and Kylander-Clark, A. and Hacker, B. and Dudas, F. (2015) U-Pb dating of interspersed gabbroic magmatism and hydrothermal metamorphism during lower crustal accretion, Vema lithospheric section, Mid-Atlantic Ridge Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth, vol. 120, no. 4, pp. 2093-2118, doi: 10.1002/2014jb011668

Schoene, B. and Samperton, K. M. and Eddy, M. P. and Keller, G. and Adatte, T. and Bowring, S. A. and Khadri, S. F. R. and Gertsch, B. (2015) U-Pb geochronology of the Deccan Traps and relation to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction Science, vol. 347, no. 6218, pp. 182-184, doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0118

Weiss, B. P. and Maloof, A. C. and Tailby, N. and Ramezani, J., et al. (2015) Pervasive remagnetization of detrital zircon host rocks in the Jack Hills, Western Australia and implications for records of the early geodynamo Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 430, pp. 115-128, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.07.067



Walter H. Bucher Medal (AGU) (2016) | American Geophysical UnionFellow, National Academy of Sciences (2015)) | Fellow, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, (2013) | Fellow, Geochemical Society (2011) | Norman L. Bowen Award (AGU) (2010) | Research Associate, Denver Museum of Nature & Science (2008-Present) | Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (2008) | Robert R. Shrock Professor in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (2007-2017) | Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award (2007-Present) | The MacVicar Award (2006-Present) | The Breene M. Kerr Professorship of Earth and Planetary Sciences (2002-2007) | Honorary Visiting Professor at St. Andrews University, Scotland (2000-Present) | Fellow, Geological Society of America (1999) | Louis Murray Fellow (University of Cape Town) (1998) | Erasmus Haworth Graduate Honors in Geology (1983) | McCollum, Burton Scholarship in Geology (1982) | Dean A. McGee Scholarship in Geology (1981)

Contact Information

t: 617 253 3775

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Ph.D., Geology, University of Kansas, 1985
M.S., Geology, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 1980
B.S., Geology, University of New Hampshire, 1976