Jeroen Tromp

1999 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

Harvard University

Jeroen Tromp 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.


A flagello terraemotus, libera, nos Domine. –Litany of All Saints

(From the scourge of the earthquake, deliver us, O Lord)

This quotation was used by James B. Macelwane, SJ, in his book, When the Earth Quakes

Man is learning to harness for his enquiring use the very wrath of the earth; the tremblings of our vibrant globe are used to ‘X-ray’ the deep interior. Reginald A. Daly, 1928

This quotation was used by Arthur Holmes in his book, Principles of Physical Geology

“Jeroen Tromp has matured scientifically very quickly. In a remarkably short time he has produced several major contributions to geophysics and has earned an international reputation. This has led to his promotion to full professor at Harvard and to the award of the Macelwane Medal.

“Jeroen’s creative impulse became evident when he was still a graduate student at Princeton, only a decade ago. His papers applying JWKB theory and its Maslov extensions to surface waves are elegant and complete. In addition, this work has provided theoretical direction to the more complex problem of three-dimensional wave propagation. The inclusiveness and rigor of Jeroen’s contributions are the marks of an outstanding theoretician.

“Jeroen has written on a variety of subjects, from the structure of the inner core, to surface wave propagation, to uniformly valid body wave theory. It would not surprise me in the least if he were chosen, quite soon, to receive the Inge Lehmann Award for his insightful work on the structure of the inner core. This work amplifies my main point about Jeroen’s research: he is a superb theoretician as well as an expert data analyst. This combination is rare. Some people are adequate, but very few are excellent at both, as is Jeroen Tromp.

“In addition to a body of published research of superior quality, Jeroen (with Tony Dahlen) has published a major treatise, Theoretical Global Seismology, (Princeton, 1998). In my opinion it is outstanding. I read most of it in manuscript form and I believe that it is going to be the primary reference for many decades. The book contains several new results and represents new research as well as a comprehensive presentation of the field. While writing his parts of the book—which are major—Jeroen continued his scholarly research output.

“Most recently, Jeroen has become interested in postglacial rebound and has published a paper (with Jerry Mitrovica) on surface loading on a viscoelastic Earth. It is fitting that he is doing this work at Harvard, where Norman Haskell, with the urging of Reginald A. Daly (himself an early drifter), wrote the first quantitative paper on the subject more than 60 years ago. Thus, as he matures, Jeroen Tromp continues to broaden his interests, always maintaining the first-class quality that we (or at least I) have to come to expect of him.

“That he has been selected to receive the Macelwane Medal is not only an honor and a tribute to his excellence but also a mark of the good taste of the American Geophysical Union.”

—J. FREEMAN GILBERT, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.


“I am grateful to the AGU for this award and sincerely thank Freeman Gilbert for his elegant and generous citation. Freeman is one of the founding fathers of modern global seismology, and he is also my scientific grandfather. Tony Dahlen, my thesis advisor, earned his Ph.D. under Freeman Gilbert’s and George Backus’ supervision. Needless to say, I consider myself very fortunate to be part of such a distinguished scientific family.

“I am honored to be a member of another venerable scientific family: the Utrecht Seismology Group. This program, first established by Nico Vlaar, later headed by Guust Nolet, and currently under the direction of Roel Snieder, inspired me to become a seismologist and continues to produce an astonishing number of well-trained students. I thank Roel for encouraging me to go to the United States for my graduate education.

“Having read, but not understood, most of Tony Dahlen’s papers, I applied to Princeton. This turned out to be one of the most significant decisions in my life. Tony and I have written quite a few papers together. After I graduated and left for Harvard, we continued to collaborate together on what turned out to be a rather long monograph entitled Theoretical Global Seismology. Over the years we and our families have become very close friends.

“I owe much of my career to my friends and colleagues at Harvard University, in particular, to my geophysics colleagues Jeremy Bloxham, Adam Dziewonski, Goran Ekstrom (who is becoming a Fellow of the AGU this year), Richard O’Connell, and Jim Rice. The Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Harvard University provides an exciting, supportive research environment to a dynamic group of scientists.

“For me the excitement of being an academician comes from working together with others. I have been fortunate to collaborate with many talented students, postdocs, and faculty. In particular, I would like to mention my current students Miaki Ishii and Erik Larson (jointly supervised with Goran Ekstrom); postdocs Dimitri Komatitsch, Christiane Stidham (with John Shaw); and Georg Kaufmann and Mark Tamisiea (both with Jerry Mitrovica); my Harvard colleague and structural geologist John Shaw; and my dear friend and Toronto colleague Jerry Mitrovica.

“Finally, I wish to thank my best friend and spouse, Tracey, for her continual love, support, and advice.”

—JEROEN TROMP, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.