Sean C. Solomon
"It is a privilege to present Sean C. Solomon as the American Geophysical Union’s Harry H. Hess Medal recipient. During more than 30 years of accomplished research he has established himself as one of the remarkable leaders in geophysical research today.
"Sean began his career working on the nature of seismic attenuation and the implications for upper mantle structure. This early work was the beginning of a long-term interest in understanding the thermal structures of planetary interiors.
"In 1978, he published a noteworthy paper in Geophysical Research Letters that provided an elegant explanation of the thermal evolution of small one-plate planets like the Moon and Mercury in the absence of plate recycling. This ‘one-plate planet’ concept has become the paradigm for understanding the tectonics of the terrestrial planets. Sean has played the leadership role over more than two decades in the understanding of the contrasting evolutionary paths of Venus and Earth and is responsible for some of the most important results from the Magellan mission.
"Sean’s interest in the Earth’s mid-ocean ridge system has been long-standing and diverse. His most important contributions, following his earliest work on shear wave attenuation and melting beneath the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, have been in the understanding of the seismicity of oceanic ridges and transforms, and the use of active and passive marine seismic experiments to probe crustal and upper mantle structures and processes. During this era Sean was actively involved in seagoing fieldwork and at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge] led one of the earliest ocean-bottom seismometer groups.
"Recently, Sean has developed an interest in testing the plume hypothesis for the origin of hot spots, and with his colleagues in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) at the Carnegie Institution [Washington, D.C.], he is playing the lead role in an impressive set of experiments.
"Sean maintains a major leadership role in studies of the terrestrial planets. He has long been interested in the role of cooling strain in the evolution of one-plate planets, and to make a major step forward in these efforts he created, and has become the principal investigator of NASA’s mission to Mercury (called MESSENGER, the Mercury Surface Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging mission) that was successfully launched in 2004.
"Throughout his career Sean has been a selfless mentor to his younger colleagues and students, many of whom are today leaders in their own right. He has contributed substantially to the community through the leadership of agency initiatives at NASA and the U.S. National Science Foundation, through his leadership of the AGU, and through his superb job as director of DTM.
"Sean’s contributions to our science are remarkable in their depth and diversity. His research papers are notable for their rigor—they stand the test of time in fast moving fields that cause many lesser publications to be superseded. He combines a keen understanding of the importance of high-quality observations with an ability to develop elegant theoretical insights that build compelling and powerful models. Sean is unique in the breadth of his abilities and the magnitude of his research accomplishments, and thus it is wise and appropriate that he receive the Harry H. Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union."
—G. MICHAEL PURDY, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.
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