During the 1930s Newell became an internationally recognized authority on fossil bivalve mollusks, his core specialty. His research style and publications served as models for young invertebrate paleontologists engaged in changing the scope and image of their discipline. His 1937 and 1942 monographs on the late Paleozoic pelecypods were breakthroughs in the incorporation of sophisticated biological information and perspectives in the interpretation of form and function of fossil invertebrates. Several decades later he brought to completion the two multi-authored Bivalvia volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. These books still serve as the single most important reference on fossil bivalve mollusks. Additionally, he applied pioneering work on modern carbonate sediments to a seminal study of the west Texas Permian reef complex.
Newell began his career in 1929 as an assistant geologist at the Kansas Geological Survey. He then moved to teaching as an assistant professor of geology at the University of Kansas, followed by an associate professorship at the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and finally a professor of geology at Columbia University from 1945 until 1977. During the same period he was also a curator at the American Museum of Natural History.
Published in 1982, his book Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality? is still considered one of the strongest rebuttals to creationism as science. He received the 1987 AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award for his early and prescient campaign to alert scientists to the importance of public understanding of the theory of evolution and to the threats creationism poses to academic freedom and science education. Other awards include the Geological Society of America Penrose Medal, the Paleontological Society Medal, a Special Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the first Raymond C. Moore Medal for Excellence in Paleontology from the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM).
Newell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society and is widely recognized for his work. Numerous scientific achievement awards include accolades from the National Academy of Sciences, Yale University, and the American Museum of Natural History.
AGI and the AGI Foundation created the Legendary Geoscientist Award in 1999 to recognize lifetime achievements in the geosciences. Previous recipients are J. David Love, Konrad Krauskopf, Michel Halbouty, and Peter Vail.
The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 43 scientific and professional associations that represent more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at http://www.