Donald Rusk Currey

For those of a similar name, see Donald Curry (disambiguation) and Donald Currie (disambiguation).

Donald Rusk Currey (January 24, 1934 – June 6, 2004) was an American professor of geography. While known in academia for his extensive research and exploration of relics of the ancient Lake Bonneville in the eastern Great Basin, he was best known to the public for his controversial felling of Prometheus, the oldest living non-clonal organism known at the time, while a graduate student in 1964.


Prometheus controversy

Main article: Prometheus (tree)

Discovery and felling

Main article: Prometheus (tree) §:Cutting of the tree The cut stump of Prometheus

In 1963, Currey was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Under a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, Currey was studying the climate dynamics of the Little Ice Age using dendrochronology techniques.

The Bristlecone pines that grow in California, Nevada and Utah were discovered to be older than any species yet dated, and in 1963 Currey became aware of a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine population in the Snake Range and on Wheeler Peak in eastern Nevada in particular. At the time he visited the area, in the summer of 1964, he did not know that previous researchers had examined the area. Based on the size, growth rate and growth forms of some of the trees he became convinced that some very old specimens existed on the mountain and, using the scientific methods of the time, Currey began taking core samples to check. He found that some exceeded 3000 years in age, taking particular interest in a tree he designated WPN-114, the previously named Prometheus.

Currey was unable to obtain a continuous series of overlapping cores from WPN-114: he had tried at least four times with a 28:inch long borer, breaking two borers, but to no avail. He decided to ask for permission from the United States Forest Service to fell the tree. He was already acquainted with Forest Service officials at the nearby more

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