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Jim Head '64 Wins Prestigious Geoscience Award

Last fall, James “Jim” W. Head III, who graduated from Washington and Lee in 1964 and is the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of the Geological Sciences at Brown University, received the Norman L. Bowen Award for his outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry or petrology from the American Geophysical Union. The organization’s October issue of its magazine, EOS, publishes the full citation highlighting the significance of Jim’s professional achievements.

The citation, written by Lionel Wilson, a professor at Lancaster University, United Kingdom, reads: “A major theme of Jim Head’s research career has been the unraveling of the volcanic history of the rocky bodies of the solar system, and he has been an investigator on virtually all of the major international planetary investigation missions. Jim is an excellent observer and interpreter of observations. But more than that, as I have observed over our long history of collaboration, he shares the need to understand the basic physical processes controlling volcanism and to interpret observations in a quantitative, as well as qualitative, way.”

As W&L Professor Emeritus Ed Spencer ’53 explained, “Not everyone will recognize the name Bowen, but anyone who ever took Introduction to Geology will likely remember Bowen’s Reaction Series—some with memories of agony, others with delight. For Jim, it was delight. This is one of the highest recognitions for scholarly achievements given among the geoscience societies. Needless to say, everyone in the W&L Geology Department is delighted.”

In his response to the award, Jim said, “N.L. Bowen has been an inspiration to me since the first geology course that I took as an incoming freshman at Washington and Lee University. I had to take a science course for distribution requirements, and I discovered geology, where the laboratories were often outdoors, and the Earth was your laboratory.”

At Brown University, Jim focuses his research on planetary evolution and the role of volcanism and tectonism in the formation and evolution of planetary crusts. He’s involved with several research projects in the field in Antarctica, on the Earth’s seafloor, and in assessing data from planetary surfaces to study climate change on Mars, volcanism on the Moon, Mars and Venus, the geology of the surface of Mercury and the tectonic and volcanic evolution of icy satellites.