Andrew F. Nagy

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

2015 John Adam Fleming Medal Winner

Andrew F. Nagy was awarded the 2015 John Adam Fleming Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “original research and technical leadership in geomagnetism, atmospheric electricity, aeronomy, space physics, and related sciences.”


Professor Andrew F. Nagy is a most appropriate selectee as the 2015 John Adam Fleming Medalist for his seminal contributions to the understanding of the chemistry, dynamics, and energetics of the terrestrial and planetary ionospheres. He began his career in the 1950s on sounding rockets and followed the ascent of the space program to ever-greater altitudes in our atmosphere and then to even greater distances from the Earth to the atmospheres of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

His contributions have been as both an experimentalist and a theoretician. He has had an enormous influence on the fields of solar-terrestrial physics and planetary atmospheres. He has applied his knowledge of the Earth’s atmosphere to better understand the physical and chemical processes of the planets of our solar system. One of his key contributions to planetary science was guiding the Pioneer Venus aeronomy and solar wind interaction investigators as they struggled to understand this first and best example of the interaction of a flowing magnetized plasma with a neutral atmosphere and its ionosphere.

He has contributed importantly to science policy and to the transference of scientific knowledge to the community through his recent book, his publications, and his lectures. Not only has he had a remarkable career of his own, but he has influenced a large number of successful scientists in their research, training the next generation of atmospheric and space scientists to follow their own paths of excellence.

—Christopher Russell, University of California, Los Angeles


Chris, thank you very much for your very kind words. Also many thanks to colleagues who supported my nomination and the committee who made the selection. Looking at the list of previous awardees makes me especially humble to join their company. Being honored by the American Geophysical Union is also very meaningful to me as I saw it grow over the last 50 years. The first Journal of Geophysical Research on my shelf is from 1961, and I remember the first West Coast Meeting at Stanford University around 1963.

At this time it is very appropriate to acknowledge all the people who helped me along my career and were along for the very rewarding and exciting ride that brought me to this point. I was an electrical engineering undergraduate in Sydney, Australia, and as the result of a fluke encounter I received a Fulbright Grant to do graduate work in the United States. Another fluke sent me to Michigan, where looking for a summer job, I was sent to see Nelson Spencer, who at that time was the director of the Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL). He offered me a summer job, which was the beginning of a long and very rewarding career in space science. George Carignan, who was the director of SPRL from 1963 to 1984, was a very supportive and important person in my career. I started out doing experimental work, and the many engineers and technicians, too many to list, played a very important role in these efforts. I moved into theoretical and modeling activities in the 1970s, and from then on I owe a tremendous amount of credit to my colleagues, students, and postdocs. In the latter category are Rich Stolarski, Ralph Cicerone, Bill Chameides, Tom Cravens, and Tamas Gombosi; the last two became colleagues with whom I have worked closely to date. I also need to acknowledge some of the many other colleagues whom I worked with over all these years, such as Peter Banks, Ian Axford, Rick Chappell, and Bob Schunk. Of the many wonderful students let me just mention four, namely, Ray Roble, Janet Kozyra, Hunter Waite, and Yingjuan Ma. Over the years I was also fortunate to be part of numerous spacecraft missions, including OGO-6, Dynamics Explorer, Pioneer Venus, Phobos, and Cassini, which opened exciting new horizons for me.

Last, but not least, I want to thank my family for their support and understanding in putting up with all my absences.

—Andrew F. Nagy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor