Harsh K. Gupta

2008 Waldo E. Smith Medal (INACTIVE) Winner

National Geophysical Research Institute

Harsh K. Gupta was awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting honors ceremony, which was held on 13 December 2006 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal recognizes extraordinary service to geophysics.


It is a great pleasure to introduce Harsh Gupta as the 2008 AGU Waldo E. Smith medalist. Gupta has made significant and innovative contributions in several areas of geosciences (seismology, tectonics, marine geophysics, geothermal resources). He is internationally known for his pioneering work devoted to characterizing earthquakes triggered by filling of artificial water reservoirs, discriminating them from normal earthquakes, and developing innovative mitigation procedures. He also had several major contributions on seismic and geodynamic processes at work in the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan regions, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea, as well as on characterization of seismic rupture zones of the Koyna and Latur stable continental regions.

Quite early in his career, it became clear that in addition to his impressive scientific credentials, Gupta also had a flair for scientific leadership. As the director at the age of 40 years, he was responsible for building the Centre for Earth Science Studies at Trivandrum (India), before taking over as the vice-chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology. In 1983, he led the Indian scientific expedition to Antarctica and established the first permanent Indian base, “Dakshin Gangotri.” In the early 1990s, he served as advisor to the Department of Science and Technology, government of India, and took several national research initiatives to enable the Indian science community to participate in international programs. For about a decade, Gupta served as the director of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) in Hyderabad. Under his stewardship, NGRI rose to be the top geosciences research institute in India. Gupta’s visionary leadership led NGRI to use the pool of basic research capabilities to address the country’s needs in hydrocarbons, minerals, and groundwater resources, a crucial question for agriculture in India. In the recent past, serving as secretary to the government of India in the Department of Ocean Development, Gupta implemented several new programs, in particular, gas hydrate exploration, detailed mapping of the entire exclusive economic zone of India—hence preparing India’s legal claim for the continental shelf—and tapping the energy of the oceans for power generation as well as production of potable water for remote island communities. After the 2004 Sumatra earthquake, Gupta was responsible for designing and implementing a unique tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean within record time. All of his leadership stints are marked by his extreme results-oriented approach that has helped him carry out diverse roles with great distinction and poise.

On the international scene, Gupta has demonstrated effective leadership capabilities through his long-standing involvement with renowned international organizations such as the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth’s Interior, and the International Council of Scientific Unions, in which he serves at the highest levels.

For his wide range of scientific contributions in the field of geophysics, his unique leadership in scientific policy, his numerous accomplishments to develop and promote geophysical research and its applications to societal needs in India, and his extraordinary services to geosciences communities in India and worldwide, Harsh Gupta is a most worthy recipient of the Waldo E. Smith Medal of the American Geophysical Union.

—ANNY CAZENAVE, Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, Toulouse, France


Thank you, Anny, for that wonderful citation. I indeed feel greatly honored to receive the prestigious Waldo E. Smith Medal from AGU, one of the most respected science societies of the world.

Among the previous recipients of this medal, I had the good fortune of personally knowing and having the patronage of Cecil Green. In the early 1970s, when our first book, Dams and Earthquakes, was published, I was at the University of Texas at Dallas. There was front-page coverage in the Dallas Morning News. Ida and Cecil Green invited us to their home and congratulated us. After several years, we decided to return to India. We were invited again by the Greens, and it took me a while to convince them that we were totally happy at Dallas, and our decision to return to India was due to my desire to work in my own country. I remained an adjunct professor at Dallas for over a quarter of a century!

Among the various responsibilities that I have been involved with, the most challenging has been the setting up of the first permanent base for India in Antarctica in one Antarctic summer, 1983–1984. We had only 60 working days available, several of them lost to blizzards and whiteouts. To set up a base of 20,000 square feet complete with heating, laboratories for scientific work, living area for 16 people, etc., was a herculean task. However, in spite of very difficult odds, due to team work and good luck, we succeeded. It was a record set in 1984 and is still a record.

The 21st century is extremely important for Earth sciences. The very existence of the human race depends on how well we understand the working of planet Earth and halt its further deterioration. Since the International Geophysical Year of 1957, we have come a long way. We are becoming aware of our problems and the very limited knowledge that we possess. It is gratifying that four international years, International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE), International Polar Year (IPY), International Heliophysical Year (IHY), and Electronic Geophysical Year (eGY), are being concurrently observed. Let us hope that a desirable impact is made, particularly on young students, so that tomorrow we have more responsible citizens to take better care of Mother Earth.

I must confess that the majority of the achievements credited to me would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of my colleagues and collaborators, and I share this honor with all of them. I am indebted to my teachers Jagdeo Singh and B. P. Saha. Hari Narain, Yasuo Sato, Mark Landisman, Anton Hales, B. P. Radhakrishna, and V. Ramachandran are a few among those who guided and supported me.

My wife, Manju, stood behind me all these long years. Our daughters, Nidhi and Benu, made me feel proud of small achievements and recognitions. For about one half of my life, I have been away from home, in the field, on the oceans, or at meetings, gracefully accepted by my wife and daughters.

—HARSH K. GUPTA, National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, India