Vinod K. Gaur

2001 Edward A. Flinn III Award Winner

Vinod K. Gaur received the Edward A. Flinn III Award at the 2001 Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony on 12 December in San Francisco, California. The award is for individuals who personify the Union’s motto, “unselfish cooperation in research” through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities.


“Ted Flinn would be proud of this year’s recipient of his medal, Vinod K. Gaur, currently active-though formally retired-as Distinguished Professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore, India. Vinod’s main goal throughout his career has been not to promote himself as an individual scientist, but to facilitate research and development in India. Two recurring themes characterize his contributions: the recognition of developments occurring outside India that he could introduce to a modern culture that values intellectual pursuit but lacks streamlined channels through its bureaucracy, and the ability to balance the financial limitations of India’s budget for science with its needs. Despite being denied the sight in one eye since childhood, his vision has been clear at every step.

“Vinod helped turn the geophysics program at Roorkee University, a traditionally strong engineering school, into one of India’s best, by insisting on solid quantitative training.

“As director of the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, Vinod arranged for the first broadband seismograph station to be installed in India. By expanding the staff and resources to include isotope geochemistry, mineral physics, and numerical experiment, he raised the Institute’s prominence in solid Earth geophysics.

“As Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development, appointed by Rajiv Gandhi, Vinod’s most notable accomplishment was to increase by several times the intake of the fishing industry. Recognizing that most fishermen, who work from small boats, could not predict the danger of impending storms, which often kept boats ashore when risks were small, and vice versa, Vinod arranged for inexpensive radios to be built and distributed to fishermen so that they could be informed of the risks as storms developed and abated, and equally importantly of potential fishing zones mapped by satellite-derived sea surface temperatures.

“Since becoming emeritus, Vinod has been the primary stimulus for India’s joining the GPS geodetic revolution. He established the only continuously recording GPS station (in Bangalore) whose data are routinely sent to the International GPS Service. He has installed and measured as many control points in India as any. As a member of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, he serves as an advisor for the installation of a large telescope in western Himalaya (elevation > 4000 m), where he has installed another continuously recording GPS receiver, another broadband seismograph, and a monitoring facility for measuring concentrations of carbon and other greenhouse gases. Vinod plays a central role in science education in India, not only at the graduate level, but also in lower schools and with the technically untrained population; and not merely as a token high-profile member of a committee, for he chairs some such committees.

“Vinod possesses the best qualities of outstanding scientific administrators. He speaks out loudly and firmly on issues affecting society, such as nuclear testing or some scientists’ whitewashing of the impending danger posed by the next great earthquake in the Himalaya, but few listen as attentively as he when others have something to say. He can deal unpretentiously with prime ministers and politicians as well as with fishermen in their dugouts or jeep drivers in the bush. He focuses on solutions to problems, not missed opportunities. He is eager to know and understand the details of any affair, whether it be a method used in his scientific research or a program for a whole nation. He sits willingly for hours in front of a computer screen testing programs to understand what they do, and like a sponge he absorbs whatever he can. Although he would have thrived in Athens in the Fifth Century B.C., not just intellectual curiosity motivates him, for he is quick to pass on what he learns to students. Although his name is last as often as first on a list of authors, his role is rarely minor, and his understanding of work bearing his name is never shallow. The Flinn Award was invented for people like Vinod Gaur.”

—PETER MOLNAR, University of Colorado, Boulder


“I am delighted and deeply touched by this honor, which associates me with the most vibrant Earth science association in the world, and with a name whose memory remains a most moving experience of my life.

—VINOD K. GAUR, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, India