Kitanidis Receives 2011 Hydrologic Sciences Award

Peter Kitanidis received the 2011 Hydrologic Sciences Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for outstanding contributions to the science of hydrology.


kitanidis_peterIt is an honor to introduce Peter Kitanidis in view of his outstanding scientific achievements in the field of subsurface stochastic hydrology. Almost any area of this discipline bears Peter’s imprint, for example, geostatistics, aquifer inverse problems, modeling of groundwater flow, transport of solutes by groundwater, transport of reactive contaminants, groundwater remediation. A few qualities characterize his contributions, as embodied in his numerous articles: a deep understanding of the topic he addresses, originality, and simplicity. I, and many others, have been inspired by Peter’s works.

Paraphrasing Einstein, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more ­complex… It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Peter has gotten this touch, which stems from his talent and insight but also from his academic background. Indeed, our discipline has attracted researchers of different backgrounds, for example, engineers, hydrogeologists, physicists, and applied mathematicians, and this diversity has enriched the field. Peter’s background as an engineer invokes a certain quality: No matter how theoretical and basic some of his works may be, they are motivated by applications. And application requires precisely the two qualities in which Peter excels: deep understanding and simplicity.

Introducing Peter is also a pleasure, because of his personality. I met him for the first time in 1981, at a Chapman Conference at Pingree Park in Colorado. At that time, Peter took his first steps in stochastic hydrology, though he had already published a few papers in related fields. In the following years my first impression of him as a friendly and likable person has only been strengthened. Being his friend is a privilege, and introducing him here, not only as an outstanding scientist but also as a gentle person, is indeed a great pleasure. Another personal quality that characterizes Peter is his modesty, which has worked against the recognition of his achievements by honors and awards, and the present one is indeed overdue. This shall be corrected, and I hope to share again such joyful events in the coming years.

Gedeon Dagan, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel


Thank you, Gedeon, for your generous remarks. We live at a time when hydrology is advancing by leaps and bounds. For me, it is such a special honor to be chosen from among so many hydrologists who have forged ahead in our field. Thank you, colleagues who nominated me and colleagues who selected me.

I will take this opportunity to give some overdue thanks: first, to my teachers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who created so positive an environment that I realized an academic career was the only one for me; to my advisors, John Wilson, Roberto Lenton, Dave Marks, and Rafael Bras, for their support and encouragement; to everyone who guided me and supported me throughout my career; to the funding agencies and to program managers, like Doug James; and to the American taxpayer for supporting research.

Thank you to our hydrologic community, to colleagues like Gedeon Dagan, Steve Burges, Bill Yeh, Shlomo Neuman, Lynn Gelhar, Yoram Rubin, Jesus Carrera, Steve Gorelick, and others. They, at critical junctures, offered ideas and inspiration and spurred the competitive spirit, which is so essential to finishing the difficult tasks.

I was fortune to have amazing colleagues everywhere I went: at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research, Iowa City, where colleagues like Lou and Mae Landweber helped us adjust and took us to the community theater to watch Damn Yankees; at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, where friends like Heinz Stefan welcomed us at the office and at their homes; at Stanford University, where dear colleagues like Perry McCarty, Paul Roberts, and Craig Criddle offered me exciting research opportunities.

I thank my students and postdocs, past and present, for their hard work, fresh ideas, and enthusiasm. I do not say this often enough, but I thank you with all my heart! Last but not least I thank my wife, Ranna, and my children for their love, support, and patience. I have never run a marathon, but after 32 years in academia, I think I know what it must feel like. And I believe that my family does too, because they’ve been there for me at every milestone.

Peter Kitanidis, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.