John Marshall Aaron, III died on Nov. 20, 2017 following a brief illness. He was 81.
The son of John M. “Marshall” Aaron and Margaret Kimbrough Aaron, Mr. Aaron was born in Wilmington, Del., on June 7, 1936, and grew up in Chadds Ford, Pa. He earned his B.S. in geology from Franklin & Marshall College, and his Ph.D. in geology from the Pennsylvania State University.
Mr. Aaron served his entire professional career as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). During his career, he conducted geologic research in Antarctica, Puerto Rico, and on the U.S. Atlantic Continental Slope. In 1960-61 and 1961-62, he was as a member of USGS field parties that surveyed the remote Thiel Mountain range in Antarctica. The Aaron Glacier, located in the Thiel Mountains, is named for him. He also served as Chief Scientist on four deep-sea oceanographic research cruises, surveying the Atlantic Continental Slope.
Later in his career, he returned to USGS headquarters in Reston and was named director of the Office of Scientific Publications, where he managed scientific publishing and information dissemination activities. There, he led the agency’s transition from paper-based publishing to digital media, and oversaw the creation of a digital publishing group that became a model for other federal agencies. Mr. Aaron also held leadership positions with the International Union of Geological Sciences, including years of service as the managing editor of its quarterly scientific journal.
Mr. Aaron had many passions in addition to his love of science. He was a prolific gardener and horticulturist who raised native orchids in Puerto Rico; an enthusiastic oenophile who, after retirement, held a part-time position as a sales advisor in the wine department of a local gourmet shop; and a lifelong student of classical music who played the French horn as a young man.
He learned to play ice hockey in his 60s, and played for more than 10 years on a recreational hockey team before finally hanging up his skates at the age of 75. He was an avid birder who, for more than 30 years, led a team of spotters on the lower Potomac River every December for the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. In 2012, Mr. Aaron, who was also a devoted student of American history, joined the Christian Sanderson Museum in his hometown of Chadds Ford, first as a museum guide, then as an elected member of the board. He also managed the museum’s web site.
Mr. Aaron leaves two daughters, Anne Aaron of Annapolis, Md., and Jennifer Aaron of Ashburn, Va.; a sister, Missie Bauman of Wilmington, Del.; two grandchildren, Matthew and Lauren Price; and many cousins, including Ann Willis of Alexandria, Va. His wife of 42 years, Barbara Robinson Aaron, died in 2006.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, Jan. 21 at noon at the Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston.