Stanley Robert Hart

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

2016 William Bowie Medal Winner

Stanley Robert Hart was awarded the 2016 William Bowie Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “outstanding contributions for fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research.”


Stanley Hart’s career began in the early 1960s with a focus on ­­­potassium-­­­argon dating applied to continental materials. By the end of the decade, however, his attention was largely redirected to the mantle—and it is upon this critical region of our planet that he has left an indelible imprint that is uniquely his. The research activity stimulated by Stan’s early (~1970) papers on lithophile element depletions in the ocean ridge basalt source blossomed into a subfield of geochemistry (chemical geodynamics) in which he played a leading role for many years and which has remained vigorous and vital up to the present day. His early insights opened the door for many others to follow, and the resulting vast database provides a dynamic picture of the Earth’s interior that serves as an indispensable complement to geophysical models.

Stan Hart brings several extraordinary qualities to the practice of geochemistry. The first is the ability to reduce extremely complex processes to a simple essence that can be treated quantitatively. This has been a distinguishing characteristic of Stan’s career, but he has also played important roles both in the development of geochemical mass spectrometry and in extracting physical and geological meaning from the ­­­high-­­­quality measurements he helped make possible.

Stan moves with remarkable ease between pondering big scientific questions and the ­­day-­to-­day challenges of analytical geochemistry. Perhaps most remarkable of all his scientific qualities is his extraordinarily adventuresome attitude toward research. He is undaunted by the need to develop new analytical techniques and fearless in moving out of his scientific comfort zone. Few geochemists have made major contributions across so diverse an array of topics—which span literally from mantle rocks to seawater to ore deposits.

Stan’s readiness to move beyond his past experience has made it possible for him to bring new ideas and strategies to the study of a diversity of Earth’s chemical systems. His influence upon our field is rooted in a combination of innovation, quantitative and integrative ability, and tenacity. Through the challenges of building and managing laboratories and leading sampling expeditions he has always remained a gracious colleague and a selfless teacher and mentor. For all he has given our science, perhaps we can forgive Stan for his role in the proliferation of the acronyms used to refer to the chemical reservoirs of the mantle.

—E. Bruce Watson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N. Y.


I am touched and deeply honored to receive AGU’s William Bowie Medal. And, Bruce, I read your citation with gratitude, and some amazement. You, so precise in your science, yet so flamboyant in your praise! I, the imposter, would meet this person! And abiding thanks to your cohorts: Don DePaolo, Al Hofmann, and Charlie Langmuir.

I have earlier thanked Pat Hurley at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tom Aldrich at Department of Terrestrial Magnetism for trusting me, as a grad student and postdoc, with their mass spec labs. They fearlessly set me on the road that brings me here tonight. Innumerable fellow travelers had a hand in this as well. Students, colleagues, provocateurs—you all know who you are! I am so grateful for the companionship and excitement you all brought to these travels.

In this mélange, there are several who merit my special recognition for the simple fact that I could have done little without them. For 20 years, at MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Jurek Blusztajn expertly managed my labs, and was a wise and gentle mentor to my students (and to their advisor). Jurek, I am so appreciative for those decades! And kudos to Sonia Esperanca, program director at National Science Foundation, both for her individual efforts on behalf of ­­­geochemistry-­petrology and for her wise and professional representation of a truly remarkable government agency. Her support, judgment, and advice were vital through much of my career—even bleak words such as “Hart, no more 5-year umbrella grants.” Sigh.

I would also thank geodesist William Bowie, who spent his career at the Coast and Geodetic Survey (1895–1936). He was an astute and highly respected leader in the scientific community and the author of some 250 publications. And he and I share a common thread. In 1929, he was on a National Academy of Sciences committee that recommended formation of an “Atlantic Oceanographic Institute”; just 49 days later, Massachusetts incorporated the WHOI, with Bowie on the first Board of Trustees. Where would I have spent the last 18 years of my career without Bowie’s efforts some 59 years earlier?

Last, and most, my wife Pam always assured me that I could leap tall buildings. My children, Jolene, Elizabeth, and Nathaniel, treated my field travels and long lab nights with apparent equanimity. BTW, I concur with you, Bruce, that I am an incorrigible purveyor of acronyms: some universally acclaimed (MORB), one universally decried (FOZO).

—Stanley R. Hart, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.