Head Receives 2013 N. L. Bowen Award

Donald B. Dingwell and James W. Head III received the 2013 Norman L. Bowen Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry, or petrology.


head-iii_james-wIt is my pleasure to present James W. Head III of Brown University as a recipient of the 2013 Bowen Award. 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. So in addition to documenting the history of volcanism on silicate planets, Jim has been at the forefront of trying to understand the mechanisms of volcanic eruption processes, on Earth as well as elsewhere.

As part of his drive to maximize the return from spacecraft missions to the terrestrial planets, Jim has been instrumental in encouraging collaboration between planetary scientists across the globe, and as an example, I particularly mention the ongoing program of twice yearly microsymposia focusing on planetary science topics that Jim cofounded in the mid-1980s.

At Brown, nearly 40 graduate students have obtained their Ph.D. under his direct guidance, and of these, several have already obtained full professorial status in the planetary science field and many others are at various points in successful careers in planetary research. The inspiration that Jim has engendered in these people, as well as the many undergraduates he has mentored at Brown, is self-evident.

In summary, Jim Head has been, and continues to be, a powerhouse of inspiration to, and productivity in, the planetary volcanology community, and it is clear that he is very worthy of the Norman L. Bowen Award.

—LIONEL WILSON, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK


Thank you, Lionel, for your kind words. 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 and inspiration! Geology seemed perfect for me: I could combine my love of the outdoors with an insatiable curiosity about what made things work. I was quickly overwhelmed, however, by the beauty and extreme diversity of rocks and minerals, so much so that it was beginning to seem like yet another foreign language to me. Then one day we discussed N. L. Bowen’s reaction series, and it all immediately started to make sense to me. This inspired in me a “systems approach” to understanding complex geologic processes and problems. It also compelled me to try to quantify all of the observations that contributed to understanding geological processes.

I want to thank Tom McGetchin for introducing me to quantitative physical volcanology, teaching me what the back of an envelope was really for, but, most importantly, teaching me to stop thinking and just take in the sensory awe of an active eruption. In the 1970s, I met Lionel Wilson and Sean Solomon, and my life changed. Sean introduced me to big questions, planetary interiors, thermal structure, and planetary thermal evolution. Lionel taught me the beauty of physics and how complex physical and geological processes can be modeled with the right combination of question-framing and observational input.

Thanks to my students, scientific colleagues, and collaborators and to the Apollo astronauts who warmly welcomed a young geologist who shared their passion for lunar exploration. I gratefully thank the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology section of AGU for this honor, named for the very first person I came to know in freshman geology.

—JAMES W. HEAD III, Brown University, Providence, R.I.