Jacob Bear

2003 Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award Winner

Jacob Bear received the Excellence in Geophysical Education Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on 10 December 2003, in San Francisco, California. The award honors “a sustained commitment to excellence in geophysical education by a team, individual , or group.”


“It is my pleasure to introduce Jacob Bear, Professor Emeritus of Hydrogeology, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, as the recipient of the AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education Medal of 2003. During more than 40 years in the field, he has significantly influenced hydrogeological education worldwide through his many books and short courses and his editorial leadership of an international journal and a book series. Under his influence, several generations of geoscientists have learned hydrogeology as a quantitative science and have been stimulated to use analytic and numerical methods in their professions. I would like to briefly highlight three of his many accomplishments and then present quotes from a few of many supporting letters I received. These statements show how he richly deserves this recognition.

“Since 1972, Professor Bear has written a number of textbooks in the field of flow in porous media, which have been well used in universities worldwide. His book, Dynamics of Fluids in Porous Media, published in 1972, is a classic and is well referenced even today. This book was one of the first that presented flow in porous media on a sound physical basis and in a rigorous mathematical framework.

A citation index search found that it is cited more than three times as often per year, over 1999–2001, as several other well-known books in groundwater, even though it is now 31 years old.

“Professor Bears second major accomplishment is as a teacher and an educational innovator. He has taught and continues to teach short courses all over the world, in 23 countries on all five continents. As a pioneer who started the short courses format, Professor Bear recognized the need for re-education of practicing hydrogeologists, as well as the need for advanced students in both developed and developing countries to learn new approaches. Today, Professor Bear expands his interest to computer-mediated distance learning courses.

“Professor Bears third major accomplishment is his establishment of the journal, Transport in Porous Media, published by Kluwer Academic Publishers. When he began this endeavor more than 10 years ago, he recognized that this subject is of importance to a number of related disciplines and that there is a need for cross fertilization. The publication has flourished as a very significant forum that brings together people from these different scientific communities.

“I conclude by quoting briefly three statements from the many supporting letters I received.

Like no one else, Professor Bear has shaped and influenced the education of thousands of scientists and engineers in the area of subsurface flows….I cannot think of another person who has so clearly left such an imprint…

Jacob has pioneered and refined high quality, interdisciplinary, science/engineering education based on solid mathematical principles. He is unquestionably well recognized around the world as a giant in hydrogeological education.

Prof. Bears well known books…have become standard reference in Japan in teaching advanced undergraduate and graduate students of groundwater hydrology, soil mechanics, soil physics, drainage and irrigation engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and petroleum and chemical engineering….

“It is my pleasure to introduce Professor Jacob Bear, the AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education Medalist of 2003.”

—CHIN-FU TSANG, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.


“Colleagues, friends, and guests: it is indeed a pleasure for me to stand here today as the recipient of the American Geophysical Union 2003 Excellence in Geophysical Education Award. It is also an honor, because the American Geophysical Union is the most prestigious scientific organization and, certainly, the most important one in our fields of interest, including my own field of activity—hydrology, and in particular hydrology of groundwater, and phenomena of transport in porous media. I would like to thank all those who were involved in bestowing this honor upon me: the Awards and Grants Committee, Professor Chin Fu Tsang of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory for taking the initiative and carrying it to fruition, and my colleagues who supported the nomination.

“For any society, education is the main tool for ensuring both continuity and progress, development and innovation, as required by the ever-growing challenges and complexity of human life on this planet. The same is also true when we focus on a particular profession or discipline. Good education, of both researchers and practitioners, is the main tool for ensuring good products, which, in our case, are optimal solutions of problems that face our society, and the resolution of conflicts between efforts to achieve a variety of objectives, often conflicting ones. As typical examples of such problems, focusing on issues and problems that are within the scope of my own field of activity, I could mention the following: how do we enable, enhance the development, plan and implement sustainable management of water resources, while preserving the environment? What does ‘preserving the environment involve? How do we supply the required quality and quantity of water to the population, so as to ensure an appropriately high standard of living, without depleting the existing water resources? How do we handle wastewater and the huge quantities of solid waste in a way that will prevent them from destroying the environment? In fact, how do we treat them as useful resources rather than as nuisances that should be disposed of?

“I have been using the word education to emphasize the difference between teaching skills, that is, causing the student to know how to do things, and educating students and practitioners on how to think, how to approach a problem, what factors to take into account, and how to communicate and interact with professionals of various disciplines, especially nontechnical ones, like societal, economic, and legal, that affect the considered problem. We have to make the student and practitioner feel, believe, and act in a way that aims at improving the way we live, rather than merely deriving solutions to mathematical models. This approach to education is more important nowadays as compared with the past, because of the ease of solving the partial differential equations by computers, which grow faster and stronger every day, while the problems that face society become more complex and multifaceted.

“Because of space constraints, I would just emphasize some aspects that I believe should be included in our education of professionals, in all disciplines: educate to use models as a basic tool for understanding and solving complicated problems, starting with the conceptual model and emphasizing model calibration and model uncertainties; educate to understand the role of models in management, and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach; and educate to incorporate conservation of the environment as an essential constraint. Thank you.”

—JACOB BEAR, echnion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa