Janet G. Luhmann

2007 John Adam Fleming Medal Winner

University of California, Berkeley

Janet G. Luhmann was awarded the 2007 John Adam Fleming Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on 12 December 2007 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is “for original research and technical leadership in geomagnetism, atmospheric electricity, aeronomy, space physics, and related sciences.“


This year’s John Adam Fleming medalist quickly established a reputation as an innovative and productive scientist with a broad range of interests. She made early and seminal contributions to aeronomy, cosmic rays, and magnetospheric and planetary physics. She contributed importantly to the understanding of the interaction of the solar wind with the atmosphere and magnetic fields of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. She has examined the behavior of planetary rings, the interaction of interstellar neutrals with heliospheric plasmas, as well as the interaction of planetary neutrals with the heliosphere. She has led in the study of the interaction of the moon Titan with the Saturn magnetosphere, and most recently she developed a vigorous solar physics effort, leading the im-plementation of the IMPACT particle and field package on the twin STEREO mission, now entering its second year of successful operation.

Like John Adam Fleming many years before her, she not only contributed broadly in her fields of planetary, solar, and space physics but she also led in service to the community. She was elected by her peers to be president of AGU’s Space Physics and Aeronomy section; she was selected by the National Academy of Science to chair the most influential committee in her field, the Committee on Solar and Space Physics [CSSP]; and she was asked by AGU to be editor in chief of JGR-Space Physics [JGR-A] during the difficult period as it ended its sole reliance on the printed page and prepared for the electronic era. In each of these roles she performed unstintingly and without equal. The SPA section grew in numbers and became a coherent voice for its community. CSSP’s advice to NASA led to a series of well-executed missions from which the field is benefiting as we speak and JGR-A published more high-quality articles than it ever had before.

To give you some insight into Janet’s depth, breadth, and advanced thinking, the first talk I heard Janet present was in 1978 at the COSPAR meeting in Innsbruck on the effect of ion engines on the magnetospheric plasma. This was 20 years before we launched the first technology demonstration of an ion-propelled spacecraft and almost 30 years before we sent Dawn, the first ion-propelled, purely scientific mission, on its way to the asteroid belt. She was decades ahead of her time.

We now live in an era of limits. We are running out of space on the planet. There is only so much money for science. Our programs have cost caps. The hardest limit with which to deal is time. There are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Janet somehow seems to have figured out how to conquer this limitation. She does not waste a minute. Wherever she goes, she is reading. She reads on BART; she reads in bank lines; she reads at the supermarket checkout stand.

I would now like to present to you the 2007 Fleming medalist: a woman who has conquered space and time, Janet Luhmann.

—CHRISTOPHER T. RUSSELL, University of California, Los Angeles


Thank you, Chris.

Having 2 minutes to speak volumes is only fitting, as that is the way life is. I wonder what John Fleming would think of today’s world and today’s AGU, and of the way our science and scientific research have evolved! Since Fleming’s last publications in the early 1950s, the Apollo pictures of the pale blue dot supposedly stirred in humans the need for living cooperatively and taking care of our planetary home. The world I was to live in would focus on important matters toward the greater good. The quest for and intelligent use of knowledge would be widely appreciated and rewarded. Becoming educated about our universe would be a priority for everyone. Common sense and merit systems would prevail.

Cursing the darkness is easy, but it is better to light a candle. We AGU members are part of a mission to enable human understanding and appreciation of our natural world, and that is becoming an ever greater challenge. Making a difference today requires volunteering one’s scarce time on endless reports, panels, and committees, as that is our system!

I admit to deriving great satisfaction from the opportunities made available to me by colleagues, sponsors, institutions, students, and friends, without whom I would not be standing here. I am grateful and humbled for being recognized. The best part has been the opportunity to do what I do. I may work on Venus data interpretation in the morning, have a Cassini team teleconference on Saturn’s moon Titan at lunch, and check the space weather in the afternoon to see if the Sun has provided new excitement for STEREO observations or CISM project analysis. It is a fantastic way to spend one’s professional life, although I wish it were easier to survive in it and share the highs with others.

In my second minute, I will carry forward a tradition started by my esteemed presenter by urging new thinking on the AGU goals of these honorable events. It is the younger members of our community whose lives and work are most affected by such recognition. The benefits for them extend far beyond these ceremonies. Doors open wider to applicants who come with professional honors. The influence of our increasingly relevant research efforts can be felt sooner and by more people if more students and professionals in all walks of life are exposed to the latest understanding of our planet. Promoting more of our best motivated younger members to help them achieve positions of greater influence in academic and administrative arenas should be a top priority of our union.

Additional young career awards or fellowships for outstanding efforts in science, education, and service would be a small blip on AGU’s radar screen with big impact. These might involve endeavors encom-passing several AGU sections, where answers often lie, so casting a wide net should be considered. As for AGU’s younger members, I urge you to do more than good research. Life is short on cosmic and geophysical timescales. Light as many candles as you can.

—JANET LUHMANN, University of California, Berkeley