Neil Postman, the noted communications theorist, in Technopoly, bitterly criticized the social sciences, saying that "Theories in social science disappear, apparently, because they are boring, not because they are refuted." Professor Dynes's work was never boring, but it has been refined and has thus steadily informed generations of researchers around the world.
His early research focus, and his dissertation topic, was the sociology of religion—perhaps an unlikely early preparation for building the field of disaster research. Nevertheless, these studies, encompassing perception, production of knowledge, and organizations, were an indirect yet excellent ground for studying organizational change in disaster: change that is itself grounded in perceptions, interpretations of changing conditions, and formal and informal organizing processes. In his dissertation which focused on "a study of the contrasting typologies of Church and Sect," with its focus on "social order" and "cultural definitions," we may see a glimmer of the thinking that went into the "DRC typology" of established, expanding, extending, and emergent groups.
Professor Dynes's work will persist in things that we talk about every day: emergence, the DRC typology of organizations during disasters, social capital. Every time we write about those things, we preserve his legacy and his memory. He led us down interesting paths. He challenged us to expand the horizons of disaster research, be it to reconsider what we can learn from slower onset and chronic processes and hazards, to consider historical accounts, such as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake as the first modern disaster, or even further back to Genesis, Noah, and disaster planning and the cultural significance of the great flood story. We can be grateful for his long and productive life, one whose pursuits led him abroad and kept him coming into the office well into his 80s. Although we are deeply saddened, those of us who knew him will reflect on many good times. Those who know him only as an important scholar in the field have the benefit of his many contributions.