Daniel J. Frost

2006 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

University of Bayreuth

Daniel J. Frost received the James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting honors ceremony, which was held on 13 December 2006 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is given for significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist.


It is a very great honor to present my good friend and colleague, Dan Frost, one of the three recipients of the James B. Macelwane Medal in 2006. Dan is first and foremost an experimental petrologist who studies problems relating to the mineralogy, petrology, structure, and evolution of the Earth’s mantle and core. He got off to an excellent start during his Ph.D. by studying H2O-CO2 fluids under mantle conditions at the University of Bristol, U.K., under the supervision of Bernie Wood. He then moved to the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C., for 1 year where he greatly expanded his experience by studying the stability and equations of state of hydrous mantle minerals using a broad range of high-pressure experimental techniques. He has been at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut, University of Bayreuth, Germany, since 1997 and is a staff scientist responsible for pursuing research, supervising and developing the high-pressure multianvil laboratories, and collaborating with a large number of external users of this facility.

Over the past few years, Dan has contributed to the understanding of a wide range of geophysical issues, including the width and mineralogical structure of mantle discontinuities, the cycling of water in the Earth’s interior, the mineralogy and properties of the lower mantle, early differentiation of the Earth including core formation and magma ocean crystallization, and the composition (light element content) of the outer core. As an example, in one of his most important contributions he showed that a very small amount of metallic iron must coexist with silicate perovskite in the Earth’s lower mantle. The explanation for this phenomenon is the dissociation of ferrous iron to amixture of ferric iron plus metallic iron at high pressure due to the crystal chemistry of silicate perovskite. His contribution provides elegant explanations for the oxidized nature of the Earth’s upper mantle and why the mantle became oxidized during or after formation of the Earth’s core. There may also be implications for the composition of the atmosphere, although these have yet to be explored.

Dan’s scientific productivity has been extraordinary in recent years, with numerous published papers, including four in the journals Science and Nature in the period 2004–2005. This productivity can be attributed to a number of factors. First, he processes the ability to identify major problems that are of broad interest to solid-Earth geophysicists. Second, he is not only an extraordinarily careful and innovative experimentalist but he also has the ability to develop sophisticated thermodynamic models in order to interpret and extrapolate experimental data on a sound basis. Third, his outgoing and sociable personality has enabled him to develop numerous productive collaborations with scientific colleagues from all over the world, including in the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Austria, and Italy.

Dan is still at an early stage of his career, and I anticipate that the future will have much to offer in terms of his scientific contributions. In the meantime, I am thoroughly delighted that he is one of the recipients of the 2006 Macelwane Medal in recognition of his scientific leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm.

—DAVID RUBIE, Bayerisches Geoinstitut, University of Bayreuth, Germany


Thank you, David, for such a kind citation, and thanks to the James B. Macelwane Medal committee and those who wrote supporting letters for their time and consideration. A medal always has two sides, as they say in Germany. On the one hand, it is a really special honor for me to be recognized by such a diverse and eminent organization as AGU. On the other hand, considering the roll call of previous medal winners, one is immediately struck by the great responsibility of in the future not appearing the odd one out on this list.

I am quite sure that I would not be receiving this medal if I had not chosen to do a Ph.D. with Bernie Wood, in Bristol. At the time I was not equipped with the knowledge to make such a good decision, so I consider this to have been pure good luck. I became hooked on doing high-pressure experiments while in Bristol, mainly, I think, because Bernie conveys that sense of excitement and satisfaction from learning something new from an experiment. This is definitely what makes experimental science so much fun for me, and it is such a bonus that I can do it for a living. An experimental habit is quite expensive, however, and I was very fortunate to be able to hone my skills by working subsequently with Yingwei Fei at the Geophysical Laboratory. There is a large amount of what is probably best described as tricks in high-pressure experiments, and Fei is a master of them and passes them on so generously.

It has been a real privilege to spend the past 8 years at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut. In Bayreuth I have learned so much through collaborations with Joe Smith, Steve Jacobson, Reidar Tronnes, and Falko Langenhorst, to name but a few. The word limit here prohibits me from naming all the collaborators and friends who have made my life in Bayreuth so fulfilling and productive over the past 8 years, but I must also mention Christian Liebske, Tiziana Boffa-Ballaran, and Jürgen Konzett. The steady flux of postdocs and other visiting scientists who pass through Bayreuth really ensures that it remains a vibrant and exciting place. The only downside is that over time you see so many friends move on. What has remained constant from the beginning, however, has been the guidance and friendship of David Rubie, who has been always been so generous with his support. I also recognize that the multianvil laboratory would be just a heavy rusting heap without the financial support of the Bavarian State, the DFG, and the European Union Research Infrastructure program.

It is hard sometimes for my wife, Barbara, and our family to understand why my work is so important for me, so it is great to have something tangible to show them as evidence that their support and patience over the past years were at least to some extent worthwhile.

—DANIEL J. FROST, Bayerisches Geoinstitut, University of Bayreuth, Germany