Erik Hauri

2000 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.

Erik H. Hauri was awarded the James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on December 17, 2000 in San Francisco, California. The medal recognizes significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by a young scientist of outstanding ability.


“One of the fine moments in the life of a doyen is watching the young shoulder a mastery of our craft and step ahead into the future. Erik Hauri is one such young, and the future is in very good hands.

“Shall I tell you about Erik’s science, or shall I tell you about Erik? Much of the former is in the journals–let me add the latter to the written record. My favorite story about Erik recalls our first meeting. I was at MIT, but with the firm intent to leave in several years. Erik was about to graduate from the University of Miami and was visiting various Ph.D. programs, interviewing them for their strengths and weaknesses. As he sat in my office, I felt I had to tell him directly that I would only be at MIT for 2 more years, in case my presence there was a strong factor in his decision. ‘Oh, that’s OK,’ he said, ‘I think I can learn all you have to teach in 2 years’! I took that to mean that he was confident and a fast learner, not that I was only 2 years deep! Fortunately, I moved to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Erik entered the MIT/WHOI Joint Program. He got his 2 years to learn my offerings, but I got 4 years to learn with him and those were some truly memorable years. I should add that Erik raced through the program in 4 years, not the usual 6–maybe I’m only 4 years deep?

“Another story is related to my principal predictor for future success in isotope geochemistry: 1) how soon a graduate student starts traveling to collect samples in the field and 2) the product of time spent in the field times money spent. Erik easily excelled at both. Initially, his thesis project was to compare isotopes in basalts from “end-member” mantle domains with isotopes in mantle xenoliths erupted in the basalts. Of course, he chose to work first on the High-U/Pb (HIMU) and Enriched Mantle 2 (EM2) mantle end-members, which occur in purest form in Polynesia (why not on Jan Mayen or Spitsbergen or Bouvet?–a perplexing question). The trip was initially planned for 2 to 3 weeks, but then, every Friday, I would get a telegram from a new southwest Pacific island saying ‘lots of interesting rocks, but can you wire some more money’? This went on for so long (3 months!), I actually began to think Erik had abdicated isotope geochemistry in favor of a career in sociology and anthropology. Of course, the unsung heroine in this was Erik’s wife, Tracy!

“Soon after Erik finally returned home with possibly a ton of basalt, news of the negative-ion Os isotope mass spectrometry technique began to circulate by geochemical tom-tom (pre-e-mail days). Erik immediately jumped on the idea, reconfigured our NIMA-B mass spec for negative ions and was running Os two days later. With the help of Greg Ravizza’s NiS chemistry, Erik seamlessly added Os to his thesis plate, and 1 year later published the first data on oceanic island basalts that showed a coupling between Os and the other heavy isotopes (Sr, Nd, Pb).

“Simultaneous with this flurry of analytical geochemistry, Erik decided that plume theory, on which the isotopic taxonomy of the mantle was heavily dependent, had too many geophysical loose ends, so Erik embroiled himself in fluid dynamics with Jack Whitehead. Through an artful combination of theory and Karo syrup, Erik and Jack derived evidence for entrainment of deep mantle into plumes; and from this came Focus Zone (FOZO) (Erik was not responsible for the acronym, just the concept; he enlisted me as the acronym consultant!). Erik thereby demonstrated that the prevailing tendency of geophysicists to poach in “isotope country” could be inverted, and this has been one of his hallmarks over the ensuing years. While isotope geochemistry is rife with its own collection of dimensionless numbers, some of Erik’s papers go so far as to discuss isotope ratios and Damköhler numbers in the same sentence!

“So Erik, I offer this beacon for your continued guidance, borrowed from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado:

“Caminante no hay camino, Se hace camino al andar.” (Traveler, there is no path, the path is made by walking.)

“For the wonderful knitting of geochemistry, experimental petrology, and fluid dynamics together into the larger tapestry of the Earth, I commend Erik H. Hauri to you as a Macelwane 2000 medalist.”

—STANLEY R. HART, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.


“It is with deep appreciation and gratitude that I receive this honor. In looking back at the impressive list of past Macelwane recipients, I’m struck at the caliber and breadth of these scientists and the impact of their work, and I’m humbly grateful that someone decided that I should be placed among them. Isotope geochemistry is a field of science dedicated to obsessing over the accuracy and precision of the relative abundances of atoms in all manner of objects, and it has always been populated, it seems, by a more than generous portion of Earth and planetary science’s lunatic fringe. History has shown that the mass spectrometry lab has classically been a focal point for kooks, rabid individualists, high-flying idealists, hopeless romantics, amateur alchemists, and others with a shaky hold on reality. As you can imagine, to a nascent scientist such as myself, thinking about graduate school and a Ph.D., this made the field of isotope geochemistry immensely appealing. I believe it is this unique combination of mental deficiencies and physical requirements that makes isotope geochemistry a field full of great ideas and inspired thinkers. I am grateful to have been granted the opportunity to represent the field in some small way here tonight.

“Isaac Newton said, ‘If I see further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.’ It is my deepest pleasure to personally thank some of these giants. First and foremost among the giants is Stan Hart, an advisor without peer and apparently without a credit limit for his spectacularly hapless student in the South Pacific. You can be assured that Stan is more than 4 years deep; however, I should point out that he is the only person I have ever been able to convince of the merits of sending rocks home by air freight. I suspect he really just didn’t want me ranting around the lab for 3 months waiting for the rocks to show up! For these mercies and many, many others, I am forever in his debt. Nobu Shimizu is a geotherapist of the highest caliber and showed me clearly how the relative abundances of atoms could be used to say something concrete about a volcano, a planet, a solar system, or a galaxy. The late Cesare Emiliani introduced me to isotope geochemistry while I was an undergraduate at the University of Miami, and I have him to thank for the manic pleasures of physical chemistry, differential equations, and statistical mechanics. Thanks also to Fred Nagle and Jerry Stipp, who introduced me to the joys of fieldwork and the freedoms of the hills.

“It is my understanding that this award is not one given simply for a nice Ph.D. thesis, and an enormous amount of credit goes to the DTM geochemistry group for supporting my most recent research ambitions. Rick Carlson, Steve Shirey, Conel Alexander, Fouad Tera, Lou Brown, and Larry Nittler took a chance on another osmium guy with only one publication, and I hope that I’ve been worthy of the opportunity they provided me. There are many places with talented people, but few places with truly great groups. The DTM geochemistry crew is a great group and is made even better by the efforts of Jianhua Wang, Mary Horan, and Tim Mock. I also owe a substantial debt of gratitude to Carnegie’s president, Maxine Singer, for her outstanding support of our efforts in geochemistry, and to our estimable director Sean Solomon for being such a wise and forward-thinking leader of our department.

“I owe as well a great many debts of gratitude on the personal side. I thank God that I have been given sufficient insight to make a living through science and raise and support a wonderful family all the while. Although no one in the Hauri clan had ever previously graduated from college, the unshakable optimism of my parents, Karen and Larry, inspired me to chase a dream and pursue something that I would enjoy every day of my life.

“Finally, my gorgeous, wonderful wife of 13 years, Tracy, has endured every late night and every day away from home that I have, but entirely without the insulating benefit of the scientist’s obsession and compulsion which are necessary parts of the crucibles of graduate school, postdocs, and the tenure track. Tracy toiled while I studied, kept us up when I was down, cracked me up when I was cracking up, and put me back on track every time I lost the route. Together with our three beautiful children, Kevin, Matty, and Michaela, she is the rock upon which my house is built. I’ve already received a lifetime of unquestioned love and support, most of the time without deserving it. This award is her award, too. Thank you very much.”

—ERIK H. HAURI, Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.