John S. Compton

Emeritus Associate Professor


John Compton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry/Earth Sciences from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in 1981 and his PhD in Earth Sciences from Harvard University in 1986. He taught at the School of Marine Science, University of South Florida, for 10 years before moving to the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Cape Town (UCT), in 1996. At UCT he taught a first-year introductory course on Earth and environmental sciences as well as a course on marine geology and geochemistry. In collaboration with his students and colleagues he has published over 60 papers spanning a wide range of research topics that include the origin of phosphorus-rich deposits of the Benguela Upwelling System; wind-blown dust as a source of nutrients to the highly diverse fynbos plant ecosystem; and topics integrating geology and human evolution (geoarchaeology). In 2016 he established Earthspun Books, publisher of his popular guide The Rocks & Mountains of Cape TownHuman Origins: How diet, climate and landscape shaped usWest Coast: A Natural History, and most recently, Interpreting Earth. He is now emeritus and continues to work on various research projects, as well as publishing natural history books. Visit his website to learn more about his books and research. You will also find links to YouTube videos, recorded lectures and maps on the geology of the Cape Town area. If you wish to buy any of his books, you can download the order form from his website.


Latest Publications

  1. Compton, J., 2022. Only in Africa: The Ecology of Human Evolution: By Norman Owen-Smith, 2021, Cambridge University Press: www. cambridge. org 376 pages, softcover, ISBN 9781108959667 (softcover) Price: $44.99. (Book)
  2. Bergh, E.W. and Compton, J.S., 2022. Taxonomy of Middle Miocene foraminifera from the northern Namibian continental shelf. Zootaxa5091(1), pp.1-55.
  3. Bergh, E.W. and Compton, J.S., 2022. Palaeoceanographic and palaeoenvironmental controls on late Quaternary benthic foraminifera of the western continental slope of South Africa. Marine Micropaleontology177, p.102180.
  4. Cawthra, H.C., Bergh, E.W., Wiles, E.A. and Compton, J.S., 2021. Late Quaternary deep marine sediment records off southern Africa. South African Journal of Geology 2021124(4), pp.1007-1032.
  5. Cawthra, H.C., Frenzel, P., Hahn, A., Compton, J., Gander, L. and Zabel, M., 2019. Seismic stratigraphy of the broad, low-gradient continental shelf of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain, South Africa. PeerJ Preprints7, p.e27757v1.