Elliott Receives 2016 N. L. Bowen Award

Tim Elliott will receive the 2016 N. L. Bowen Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry, or petrology.”


Timothy (Tim) Richard Elliott is an isotope geochemist in the broadest sense of the term. After a PhD at Open University with Chris Hawkesworth as adviser, he went to Lamont as a post-doc and then to Amsterdam. He became a faculty at the University of Bristol in 1999. Dressing and chucking like a teenager but thinking and performing as a Jedi of Geochemistry, he combines, as his long-term friend Terry Plank puts it, “a child-like curiosity and generous mentorship with an utterly honest and brutal view of shabby work”.

Like a journeyman in previous centuries, Tim has gone through many of the basic techniques, learning to master neodymium, thorium-uranium, lead, nickel, magnesium, and tungsten isotopes with utmost proficiency before he tackled the most daunting challenges left unsolved by the pioneers of mantle and planetary geochemistry. He left his mark on a number of problems that have since become common knowledge, like the U-Th series in the Mariana volcanics as a marker of melting processes, the subduction factory, the history of the uranium cycle, and evidence of tungsten isotope heterogeneities attesting to live 182Hf in the early Earth. Tim is an unusual crossbred with outstanding analytical talent, rigor, and a deep understanding of the theoretical aspects of geochemistry. With Milton Keynes, Lamont, and Bristol efficiently nurturing Tim’s developing personality, his nature, that of a mind both independent and creative, rapidly revealed itself and has long since come into its own.

Time has now come to recognize Tim as one of the leading geochemists in his generation. Dear President and dear Colleagues, I am particularly proud to present to you the 2016 recipient of the Norman Bowen Award of the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology Section of the American Geophysical Union, Timothy Richard Elliott.

—Francis Albarède, Ecole Normale Superieure Lyon, France


It is daunting to respond in black and white to Francis’ blushingly generous words. He has known me long enough to see more than just the questionable garb, so I am very grateful for his focus on the positive and longstanding support. Briefly wandering back down the memory lane Francis sketched, I think we are both misty-eyed about the excitement of research and life on the banks of the Hudson. To me this was certainly a fillip after the concrete cows of Milton Keynes, although this well-ordered suburban environment did inspire a comeraderie amongst the plucky few who chose to ask questions of Earth rather than estate agents. I remember the weekly window on a largely mysterious world provided by Eos, then in print form. This world, and indeed the bits I had never understood in Scooby Doo, were made gloriously manifest to me during my time at Lamont. Subsequently swapping Old for New Amsterdam seemed a fair exchange; I fear my lack of ostensible productivity during that era would be fatal now, but the freedom I was afforded for intellectual and technical rumination was enormously valuable. Thence my personal Brexit, which has proven to be the stuff of the impossible dreams of the Vote Leave campaigners.

I am hugely buoyed by the kind efforts of those who nominated me. Multitudinous thanks go out to the many who have helped me along a somewhat circuitous path and kept surprising faith in what I have been sometimes doing. I won’t name names, as the list would inevitably be both remiss and too long. Having spent much of my career assuming that the function of Awards Presentations was as a time out for much needed recuperation, I also appreciate the bravery of the committee for giving me a chance to engage.

—Tim Elliott, University of Bristol, United Kingdom