Raymond Hide

1997 William Bowie Medal Winner

Oxford University

The 1997 William Bowie Medal, given by AGU for outstanding contributions to fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research, was presented to Raymond Hide at the AGU Spring Meeting Honor Ceremony on May 28 in Baltimore. The award citation and Hide’s response are given here.


“The Bowie Medal is the American Geophysical Union’s highest award honoring `outstanding contributions to fundamental geophysics’ and `unselfish cooperation in research.’ Ray Hide’s career abounds with many examples of his fundamental contributions and his injection of new and stimulating ideas, as well as with examples of his leadership and community service. For more than 40 years, Ray has provided the geophysical community with a steady flow of new ideas and fundamental advances on a broad spectrum of topics, including, among others, the basic hydrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics of spinning fluids, geomagnetism, planetary magnetism, motions in the Earth’s core, fluctuations in the Earth’s rotation, and the dynamics of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets. Ray’s list of over 200 publications covers an amazing range of topics from the Earth’s core to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Here I will highlight only a few of his many accomplishments.

Rotating-Flow Experiments

“Ray began his fundamental laboratory experiments as a graduate student, in order to better understand the geodynamo mechanism through the study of the motions of the Earth’s fluid core by which the geomagnetic field is generated. Ray immediately recognized the application of his work to global-scale meteorological phenomena, and his work has had a profound effect on both atmospheric science and on general theoretical studies of nonlinear systems. Many theoreticians and experimentalists, inspired by Ray, followed the road he blazed. Ray saw the great potential of laboratory studies in the exploration of nonlinear fluid dynamics; he concentrated on quantitative measurements with simple geometries and carefully controlled boundary conditions to better study the essence of the phenomenon.

Planetary Atmospheres–Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

“Ray’s work on Jupiter’s atmosphere was another pioneering effort that stimulated others to enter the new field of planetary atmospheric dynamics. His early ideas on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and his later experiments on long-lived eddies in the laboratory represent fundamental advances, not only to our understanding of planetary atmospheres, but also to our understanding of low-frequency fluid dynamics in general.

Studies of the Earth’s Interior

In the 1960s, in addition to his work on magnetohydrodynamic oscillations of the Earth’s core and interpretation of the geomagnetic secular variation, Ray pioneered the idea that there must be kilometer-scale irregularities on the interface between the Earth’s fluid core and its mantle due to convection in the deep mantle. Moreover, he felt that these irregularities could play an important role in generating the main features of the geomagnetic secular variation and decadal variations in the length of day. He argued that the magnitude of the viscous and electromagnetic coupling between the core and the mantle might be too small to account for the largest measured decadal fluctuations in the length of day, but that topographic coupling associated with irregularities no larger than 1 km, and therefore undetectable with the resolution of contemporary seismic techniques, could be large enough. Today, a quarter of a century later, topographic coupling and its implications are an active area of research and are leading candidates to account for the observed decadal length-of-day variations. Ray has also been very active in dynamo theory, as evidenced by his recent articles demonstrating the structural instability of the Rikitake disk dynamo and introducing and analyzing new low-dimensional dynamo systems that are physically realistic, mathematically novel, and geophysically relevant.

Atmospheric Excitation of Earth’s Rotation

“Ray first demonstrated the dominance of atmospheric effects in short-period length-of-day (LOD) variations in 1980, through the analysis of Global Weather Experiment atmospheric and geodetic data. In 1983, Hide and his colleagues set forth the fundamental formulation of the effective atmospheric angular momentum (AAM) functions, which serves as a basis for contemporary work in this area. Since then, Ray has been a major force behind the successful efforts to obtain AAM data routinely from the meteorological centers for analysis with Earth rotation data. Ray has ushered in a new era of Earth rotation studies and provided interdisciplinary links between the geodetic and meteorological communities. He has been a fount of knowledge in this area and has shared his ideas freely with the international community.

Unselfish Cooperation in Research and Leadership

Ray’s sharing nature epitomizes the AGU’s motto, ‘Unselfish Cooperation in Research.’ With his enthusiasm, warmth, and wise counsel, he has encouraged many young scientists to fulfill their goals. Ray is not only a brilliant researcher of the highest caliber, he is an active leader in the international world of science and is heavily involved in the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. He played a key role in the formation of Study of Earth’s Deep Interior (SEDI) and has served as President of the European Geophysical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Royal Meteorological Society. His extraordinary activity in the promotion of science, both within Great Britain and throughout the world, was recognized by the award of ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in 1990. “Ray’s accomplishments have been further recognized with the award of several honorary degrees, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Charles Chree Medal of the Institute of Physics, and the Holweck Medal of the French Physical Society. A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (since 1967), the Royal Society of London, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is also a Member of the Academia Europaea and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and an Honorary Member of the European Geophysical Society and the Royal Meteorological Society. “The presentation of the AGU’s highest award, the Bowie Medal, to Ray Hide not only recognizes but celebrates Ray’s many contributions.”

—K. N. LIOU, University of California, Los Angeles, USA


“Mr. President, members of the American Geophysical Union, and honored guests. I am touched and not a little flattered by the kind and generous remarks we have just heard from the citationist, my friend Jean Dickey, with whose group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory I have enjoyed working from time to time on problems in geodesy. I count it a great honor to join the ranks of those geophysicists who have been awarded the William Bowie Medal by the AGU. They include three fellow countrymen (Harold Jeffreys, who received the award in 1952; Sydney Chapman in 1962; and Teddy Bullard in 1975), and I was lucky enough to meet and talk to all of them during my days as a student, long before my first visit to the United States to attend a scientific meeting at the Johns Hopkins University in this city of Baltimore!

“It was Bullard who in 1947, around the time of his fruitful venture into geodynamo theory, suggested that P. M. S. Blackett’s new `fundamental’ theory of the Earth’s magnetic field could be tested by determining how the field varies with depth, and it was Chapman who with Keith Runcorn then worked out what changes to expect if the theory were true. The experiment, which helped disprove the theory, was duly carried out in several deep coal mines in various parts of Britain under the direction of Blackett and Runcorn. I was one of several fortunate undergraduates from the Physics Department headed by Blackett at Manchester University who were dragooned into helping with the measurements. This was my introduction to scientific research, and I thus became one of the first of many scientists infected at an early stage of their careers by Runcorn’s boundless enthusiasm for geomagnetism.

“At the time of these events, Jeffreys, the first British medallist, was working mainly in seismology. His brilliant reputation as a writer was never quite matched by his lecturing and conversational skills, but as students we were advised that “‘his grunts and murmurs should always be taken seriously, because they were likely to contain pearls of wisdom.’” It was a remark consisting of no more than four words uttered by Jeffreys in 1951 that prompted my own interest and subsequent work in dynamical meteorology, a subject in which Jeffreys had made seminal contributions a quarter of a century earlier. The remark was made as he passed through the large hut where several graduate students in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics at Cambridge University were engaged in various unrelated laboratory studies. When I showed him some of the flow patterns produced in an apparatus I had designed for investigating thermal convection in a rotating fluid, he muttered “looks like the atmosphere” and wandered off into the field outside the building, leaving me to ponder the implications of what he had said. I should perhaps add that my interest in planets can be traced back to a general discussion over lunch in the Quadrangle Club of the University of Chicago in 1954, when Harold Urey, without giving any kind of warning, demanded to know what I thought about the Great Red Spot on Jupiter!

“Few people in those days knew the meaning of the word ‘geophysics,’ and research in the subject had yet to achieve the recognition it now enjoys. Letters arrived at Cambridge addressed to some imaginary “‘Mr. George Physics,’” and more than a decade was to elapse before the department there could boast a full professor in the subject, i.e., Teddy Bullard. But all branches of geophysics were then on the move in the United States, Britain, and other parts of the world, and the AGU, which deserves great credit for its role in fostering many of the truly astonishing developments of the past half century, was expanding its activities accordingly. Many geophysicists, including members of the American Geophysical Union, have helped and encouraged me in various ways during the course of my own career, usually offering what scientists value most, an interest in what they are trying to do together with informed and constructive criticism of their ideas. These friends are too numerous to name, Mr. President, in this necessarily brief response, but they know who they are, and I take this opportunity to express to them and to AGU as a whole my heartfelt gratitude and all good wishes for the future.

Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.”

—RAYMOND HIDE, Oxford University, Oxford, England