Jacob Bear

2010 Robert E. Horton Medal Winner

Technion-­Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa

Jacob Bear was awarded the 2010 Robert E. Horton Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 15 December 2010 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “outstanding contributions to hydrology.”


It is a pleasure and an honor to introduce Jacob Bear, professor emeritus at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, as the 2010 Robert E. Horton medalist. Jacob has had a prime influence on the hydrological sciences and on virtually every scientist who has studied hydrogeology during the past 40 years.

Jacob lists a lifetime of unique accomplishments, and his influence on the field is unparalleled. Jacob has made pioneering, diverse contributions to basic and applied scientific aspects of groundwater hydrology. He began his career in the 1960s acutely concerned by the paucity of tools for quantitative modeling and by the huge gaps in fundamental understanding of the physics of flow and transport in porous media. Jacob has devoted his career to remedying this situation by working to combine basic physical principles, mathematical analysis, and practical applications to produce a coherent and systematic methodology for formulating and quantifying problems in subsurface hydrology. The impact of Jacob’s work has so significantly influenced the field, in so many ways, that it is difficult to enumerate them.

Jacob has had an immeasurable impact through his books, which remain key reference sources to this day. His first book, Physical Principles of Water Percolation and Seepage, in 1968 with S. Irmay and D. Zaslavsky, introduced a comprehensive approach based on mathematical modeling and included among many subjects both saturated and unsaturated (multiphase) flow and solute transport in porous media. This was the beginning of Jacob’s implementation of his concept of “transport phenomena in porous media” as opposed to “movement of water in aquifers.” Indeed, in 1967 and 1969 Jacob organized two international symposia that brought together scientists from many disciplines—hydrologists, soil physicists, reservoir engineers—who had not been communicating previously. As an outgrowth, Jacob’s later books, particularly the 1972 Dynamics of Fluids in Porous Media (which has since been reissued by Dover and has more than 8000 citations), have had a huge impact on the field, and virtually every student and researcher in hydrogeology has studied from Dynamics or referred to it on some occasion. This book changed both theory and practice on a global level. Jacob has also mentored a long list of outstanding young researchers and practicing engineers throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Jacob has made benchmark research contributions, notably, to the theory of volume averaging, to quantification of dispersion in solute transport, and to modeling of seawater intrusion (combined with management of coastal aquifers). The latter work dictated management of the coastal aquifer of Israel from the early 1960s and has led to practical improvements in exploitation of coastal aquifers around the world.

As a consequence, Jacob has fundamentally influenced the thinking of at least two generations of hydrologists. Jacob’s conceptual thinking and quantitative approaches have revolutionized the field of groundwater hydrology. Quite simply, Jacob Bear is a legend in his own time. Jacob Bear is a credit to AGU, richly deserving of this highest distinction for outstanding contributions to the geophysical aspects of hydrology.

—BRIAN BERKOWITZ, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel


I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to those who nominated me for this prestigious award, to those who supported the nomination, to those who selected me, and to Brian Berkowitz for his warm citation.

Many of you, who know me mainly from my books, have no doubt noticed that I am working in two, albeit interconnected, directions: groundwater hydrology and modeling phenomena of transport in porous media. Knowledge of the latter is essential for the former. In addition, this knowledge constitutes the basis for many other engineering disciplines, like geochemistry, petroleum reservoir engineering, chemical engineering, and biomedical engineering. Common to these disciplines is the fact that phenomena of transport of mass, momentum, and energy occur in the special multiphase domain called “porous medium.” The starting point is the use of a magnifying glass to observe and understand what happens at points within the phases and on interphase boundaries and then, by employing homogenization of one kind or another, obtain mathematical models that describe these phenomena in terms of measurable quantities in a domain regarded as a continuum.

An exciting aspect of this area is that it is interdisciplinary. It requires knowledge (and cooperation with experts) in physics, chemistry, continuum mechanics, thermodynamics, and more. All of this knowledge is used to solve societal problems of water resources, energy, and the environment.

Traditionally, groundwater hydrologists have been dealing with extracting groundwater from aquifers while ensuring good quality water and aquifer sustainability. Nowadays, geologists, geochemists, hydrologists, and reservoir engineers join forces to solve environmental problems. An example is carbon dioxide sequestration in deep geological formations, often saturated with brines. Currently, a lot of research and implementation activities are taking place on this exciting subject around the world.

Altogether, I feel lucky to work in the field of hydrology, in which I can combine theory and application, research, and teaching around the world and cooperate with colleagues of many disciplines in contributing to the solution of societal problems—ensuring a sufficient quantity of clean water to the population and ensuring a clean environment.

I cannot close without thanking my many students who helped me, sometimes pushed me, to move ahead, eventually reaching this point.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Siona, and my children and grandchildren for being patient when I have been spending with them much less time than they deserve.
Thank you.

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