Who was David M. Hopkins?
The following information is taken from the book The Last Giant of Beringia by Dan O'Neil that was written with help of the funding from the National Park Service. This book has been published in English and Russian.
David Moody Hopkins was born December 26, 1921 in Greenfield, New Hampshire. During his early childhood his mother introduced him to the woods outside of Greenfield, taught him to explore, observe and learn about everything he saw.
When he entered the University of New Hampshire, his true ambition was to be a railroad brakeman, so he enrolled in an engineering program. Luckily for us, he ended up graduating with a degree in geology. In 1942, he entered Harvard College as a doctoral student in geology, but in less than three weeks, he interrupted his formal education to accept employment with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Alaska. In 1944, while still in Alaska, he was drafted into the army and sent to Cold Bay, Alaska to be a weather observer. After military service and another stint with the USGS, he returned to Harvard to resume his doctoral program. He earned one of Harvard's first PhD degrees in Quaternary geology, and again returned to the USGS in Alaska.
Dr. Hopkins did not "invent" or "discover" the Bering Land Bridge. Others had suggested its existence before him. But it was Hopkins who had the vision to realize that geologists, botanists, archeologists and others - all working together - could reconstruct the ancient landscape and prove its past existence. In recognition of his approach, the International Association for Quaternary Research asked him to organize a symposium on the Bering Land Bridge for a conference in 1965. For the symposium, Hopkins solicited papers from many fields - including geology, paleontology, geophysics, paleomagnetics, oceanography, geochronology, botany, cytology, paleobotany, palynology, physical anthropology and archeology. Following the conference, Hopkins published his first book, The Bering Land Bridge, which firmly established that the land bridge must have existed. It received rave reviews from around the world. His second book, The Paleoecology of Beringia, followed in 1982. Many in the field have referred to his books, respectively, as "The Old Testament" and "The New Testament".
Hopkins always had a special desire to work with his Russian colleagues, since his studies on the Seward Peninsula confined him to looking at only half the picture. In 1973 he was invited to participate in an interdisciplinary conference in Khabarovsk. His Russian hosts told him that it was his first book that had inspired them to convene the conference. Later, he was able to study the Chukotka coastline just across from his beloved Seward Peninsula.
Hopkins retired from the USGS after over 50 years as a field geologist. During his career with the USGS, he was presented with an outstanding Performance Award and other recognition. He won awards from the National Geographic Society, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society for American Antiquity, the American Quaternary Association, and the Geological Society of America. He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His contributions will also be preserved forever in the scientific names of at least six species of Beringian fossils named in his honor.
Unfortunately after a lengthy illness David Hopkins passed away in 2001. His lifetime of study on Beringia continues through the countless young scientists that he inspired.
Another enduring tribute to Hopkins' life of research on the Seward Peninsula may well be the creation of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Hopkins met with national park planners in the 1970's and his knowledge and love for the area helped convince them of the national - and international - significance of the region. With his usual generosity, Hopkins agreed to let the National Park Service use his name on this Beringia award.