Keith Young

STENZEL, HENRYK BRONISLAW (1899–1980). Henryk Stenzel, paleontologist and stratigrapher of the Early Cenozoic rocks of the Gulf Coast, one of three sons of Stanislaw and Leah (Kohn) Sztencel, was born in the small Polish textile town of Pabianice on February 7, 1899. He began his formal education in 1908 at the Gymnasium of St. Elizabeth, Breslau (now Wroc_aw), in what was then Silesia, a part of Germany. During World War I he was considered an enemy alien and was not allowed to continue his schooling. In 1918 he entered Schlesische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität at Breslau, where he majored in paleontology and geology and minored in physics and mathematics. He was quite successful in mathematics and in geology and, as Hans Cloos's first student in petrofabrics, was granted his doctorate in geology with high honors in 1922. Stenzel (the German university would not register him as Sztencel) spent a further year at Breslau and then a year in England. He became an instructor at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) in 1925, but because the position was not in petrology and petrofabrics, his preferred field, he changed to Cenozoic paleontology and stratigraphy, a field in which he became a leader. In 1934 he joined the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas and in 1948 became professor of geology. In 1954 he joined the University of Houston as chairman of its geology department. A heart attack ended his tenure there, but after recovery he resumed his studies of Lower Cenozoic stratigraphy with Shell Development Company, and in 1962 he returned to teaching as visiting lecturer at Rice University. In 1967 he became a visiting professor of geology at Louisiana State University.

A few of Stenzel's ninety-two published works are on petrology, but most are on the paleontology and stratigraphy of the Lower Tertiary of the Gulf Coast. A few are on modern shells and on evolution. Stenzel's contributions to Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology, published by the Bureau of Economic Geology, are nearly all classics. His "Successful Speciation in Paleontology: The Case of the Oysters of the Sellaeformis Stock" (1949) is a standard work for all who are interested in the adaptations of species. His discussion of the five living species of the modern genus of living, shelled cephalopods, "Living Nautilus" (1964), was the most advanced study of that group at that time. Stenzel's crowning achievement was the volume of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology entitled Oysters (1971). Stenzel married Elsie Brodbeck, a native of Austin, in 1929. They had three daughters. He was a fellow of the Geological Society of America and served terms as president of both the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists (1949–50) and of the Paleontological Society (1955–56). In 1956 he was an official delegate of the United States to the International Geological Congress in Mexico. Stenzel moved back to Houston, where he died after a long illness on September 5, 1980.

Harold Harry, "Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel," The Nautilus, January 1981. Wilfred Roux, Jr., "Dedication to Dr. Henryk B. Stenzel," Transactions of the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies 15 (1965). Keith Young, "Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel," Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 66 (February 1982).

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Handbook of Texas Online, Keith Young, "STENZEL, HENRYK BRONISLAW," accessed June 17, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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