A.G. HUNTSMAN AWARD

FOR EXCELLENCE

IN THE MARINE SCIENCES

 
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XAVIER LePICHON (1987)

Xavier LePichon, tenth recipient of the A.G. Huntsman Award, is recognized as one of the leaders of the recent revolution in Earth Sciences. His formulation of the principles of Plate Tectonics represented a major advance towards the acceptance of this new paradigm of science. Using his great analytical skills and expertise in the application of computers, he exploited the vast treasury of data at Lamont Geological Observatory to produce the first world models of plate motions. These models enabled him to demonstrate that a half a dozen major plates could account for most of the Continental drift in the last 100 million years. In a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s, LePichon and colleagues from Lamont showed that sea floor spreading occurred in all the oceans thus providing irrefutable confirmation of the Continental Drift Hypothesis. Returning to France, he took charge of the National Program in Marine Geophysics in 1969. His energy, drive and enthusiasm for a rigorous approach to solving the puzzle of the history and construction of the Earth's crust inspired a new interest in sea floor geology in his native country and in other countries in Europe. The publication of his book Plate Tectonics in 1973 was a landmark event in the development of new ideas. Appreciating the need for detailed studies of key areas of the ocean floor, he led the French participation in project FAMOUS which investigated a one-degree segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near 37deg North. Besides numerous scientific contributions, this research resulted in the publication of his second book, which won a number of literary prizes. As an international scientist, his work is characterized by a cooperative approach to solving problems in Global Tectonics in the Mediterranean Region, Labrador Sea, Japan Trench and Black Sea. An energetic participant in deep-sea expeditions, a prolific writer, and a dedicated teacher, LePichon is in the vanguard of research concerning the fundamental problems of the Earth.