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waldo e. smith award

Information on the Waldo E. Smith Award

The Waldo E. Smith Award is an award given biennially in even numbered years to a senior scientist in recognition of extraordinary service to Earth and space science. Successful candidates have strengthened and helped advance our scientific disciplines, as well as played unique leadership roles in scientific associations, education, legislation, research, management, philanthropy, or the public understanding of science.

Originally established in 1982 as the Waldo E. Smith Medal, it was reclassified as the Waldo E. Smith Award in 2012. Waldo E. Smith, a specialist in hydrology and civil engineering, became the first AGU Executive Secretary (and later, Executive Director) in 1944 and served in that capacity for 26 years. Under his leadership, AGU launched new scientific journals and Smith helped guide the careers of many young geophysicists. As Executive Director Emeritus, Smith became the first recipient of his namesake medal.

Rock formation in Monutment Valley USA

Award benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our honorees. Recipients of the Waldo E. Smith Award will receive the following benefits during the award presentation year:

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    An engraved award
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    Recognition in Eos
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    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting
  • 4
    Two complimentary tickets to the Honors Banquet at the AGU Fall Meeting


To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

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    Nominees: The nominee should be a senior scientist, but is not required to be an active AGU member. They should be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

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    Nominators: Nominators must be active AGU members and in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy. Duplicate nominations for the same individual will not be accepted. However, one co-nominator is permitted (but not required) per nomination.

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    Supporters: Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members but must be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

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Nomination package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document. For detailed information on the requirements, review the Union Awards, Medals and Prizes Frequently Asked Questions.

  • A nomination letter with one-sentence citation (150 characters or less). Letterhead stationery is preferred. Nominator’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required. The citation should appear at either the beginning or end of the nomination letter.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee. Include the candidate’s name, address and email, history of employment, degrees, research experience, honors, memberships, and service to the community through committee work, advisory boards, etc.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • Three letters of support not including the nomination letter. Letterhead is preferred. Supporter’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required.

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Nominations are Open!

The nomination cycle for 2022 AGU Union awards, medals, and prizes is now open until 15 April. Nominate a colleague, peer or student today.

Illustration of chaos abstract fractal effect light design

Award Recipients

Therese Moretto Jorgensen


M. Meghan Miller received the Waldo E. Smith Award at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award honors an individual “for extraordinary service to geophysics.”



Dr. Meghan Miller’s scientific contributions to geodesy and the growth of the geodetic community and her interest in education, diversity, and fostering the next generation have provided extraordinary service to geophysics. Under her technical and managerial leadership as the president of UNAVCO since 2008, the geodetic community has been transformed into a vibrant and growing organization. UNAVCO is home to the National Science Foundation’s geodetic capabilities that serve scientific advances on every continent. Geodesy, in support of geophysics, has flourished under Meghan’s leadership. Since Dr. Miller came to UNAVCO, the national and international geodesy community has published 1,653 peer-reviewed contributions supported by UNAVCO services.

Meghan Miller received her Ph.D. in geology from Stanford University in 1987 after receiving a B.S. in geology and geophysics from Yale in 1979. By the 1990s, Meghan had realized the value of geodetic measurements for addressing geologic and geophysical tectonic problems, publishing on GPS determination of Pacific–North American plate motion. In the late 1990s, Meghan transitioned to understanding coseismic motions using GPS with application to the Landers and Hector Mine earthquakes and the eastern California shear zone. In 1991, she joined the faculty of Central Washington University (CWU), taking her geodetic expertise with her and expanding into studying the Cascadia subduction zone. She participated in the first discoveries of slow-slip events along the subduction zone, publishing the results in Science (2002) and AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research (2004). Following these key scientific contributions and having demonstrated the value of geodetic data to understanding plate tectonics, crustal deformation, and fault and subduction zone processes, Meghan worked to establish the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array, which later became part of EarthScope’s Plate Boundary Observatory.

Throughout her 27 years of exceptional leadership, Dr. Miller’s interest in education and fostering the next generation has never flagged. In lockstep with carrying out scientific research and leading the geodesy community, Meghan has improved education and outreach. Dr. Miller transformed the geology program at CWU while advancing our scientific understanding of tectonic processes. She served as dean of the College of Sciences from 2002 to 2008. During this time, she established a master’s program at CWU, supervised eight master’s theses, held two editorships, and produced 11 field trip guides, geologic maps, book reviews, and invited papers! Meghan Miller has been truly exceptional in her scientific contributions and in serving the entire geodetic community ranging from early students to senior researchers.

—Andrea Donnellan, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena


I am humbled and honored to be recognized with the Waldo E. Smith Award for extraordinary service to geophysics. I am grateful to Dr. Andrea Donnellan for leading the nomination and to my colleagues who supported it, Roger Bilham, Jeff Freymueller, and Bill Holt. Thank you! I am thrilled to have found a career path that I love, one that has been rich in serendipity and opportunities to advance geophysics research and education for the benefit of science and society. Among my greatest pleasures is the community of talented geodesists I work with; collectively they have driven a geophysics renaissance by the creative application of the emerging GPS/Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), and lidar technologies that we collectively call geodesy.

My path has been circuitous. My early career focused on the geology of active tectonic plate margins, particularly the Klamath Mountains, the eastern California shear zone, and the Cascadia subduction zone. As a postdoc at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I got lucky with early GPS campaign observations in the Mojave Desert and Baja California (NASA) and was able to “capture” the Landers earthquake the year after an initial GPS campaign. Then Central Washington University took a chance on me…. Working with Canadian and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) colleagues, we built the first international Cascadia GPS network—PANGA (National Science Foundation, the Canadian Geological Survey, and USGS)—and established continuous GPS stations near historical tide gauges in coastal California and the U.S. portion of Cascadia (with NASA support).

But the work I love most is with students: running GPS campaigns and building networks, cultivating the next generation of scientists, building a student-centered geology faculty, initiating the CWU master’s program, and watching students fledge to advance their own dreams.

At UNAVCO, I am lucky to serve an international science community that studies the Earth and its fluid envelopes at a spectrum of temporal and spatial scales, from individual fault or volcano systems to continent-scale geodynamics, and the storage and cycling of water through solid Earth, surface reservoirs, and the atmosphere.

Little of this was the path I meant to follow; it was simply the path that presented! But serendipity has created so many opportunities to serve geophysics, in ways that didn’t even exist when I was a student! I am deeply honored to receive the Waldo E. Smith Award for extraordinary service to geophysics.

—M. Meghan Miller, UNAVCO, Boulder, Colo.

Mark B. Moldwin received the 2016 Waldo E. Smith Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors an individual for “extraordinary service to geophysics.”



It is a great pleasure to nominate Prof. Mark Moldwin for the AGU Waldo E. Smith Award. I can think of a no more deserving recipient for this accolade.

The AGU Waldo E. Smith Award honors individuals who have played unique leadership roles in such diverse areas as scientific associations, education, legislation, research, public understanding of science, management, and philanthropy and whose accomplishments have greatly strengthened and helped advance the geophysical sciences. Mark has excelled in all.

With over 150 scientific publications with impressive citation indices, his research has covered the development of magnetometers and small satellites, understanding the structure of the inner heliosphere and its impact on the magnetosphere, propagation of ­ultralow-­frequency waves, and ­magnetosphere-­ionosphere coupling. Mark’s scientific expertise is second to none, and he has a natural ability to communicate that science to others.

His mastery of teaching is manifest in several prestigious awards; he has been recognized by the Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Michigan and was rated Top 10 Professor at UCLA. He went beyond the traditional teaching methods and developed science courses for students of nonscience disciplines to actively participate in the process of collecting and interpreting data for deeper understanding. He received the Copenhaver Award for the innovative strides made by the Dorm-room Labs.

He has devoted himself to improving public understanding of science through some 24 essays published in the Culver City News, which have eradicated misconceptions. His essay on the fallacy of “clean coal” sets the record straight, just as his clear and concise description of the political and scientific debate on global warming leaves little room for the reader to doubt its reality.

He encourages students, teachers, and the public to think critically, understand what science is and is not, and convey the excitement of science. He has promoted space science internationally through programs in Africa and organizing Geophysical Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshops, particularly at the International Heliophysical Year meetings in Ethiopia and Zambia.

Mark has contributed tremendously to service activities as editor in chief for Reviews of Geophysics, chair of the Space Physics and Aeronomy (SPA) Education and Public Outreach Committee, a member of the AGU Publications Committee and the AGU SPA Executive Committee, and cochair of the National Research Council Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey Education and Workforce Working Group on the Space Studies Board.

It is a pleasure to nominate Mark for his accomplishments in scientific research, teaching excellence, and innovative educational methods and for improving public understanding of science. His accomplishments have greatly strengthened and significantly advanced the geophysical sciences.

—Tim ­Fuller-­Rowell, University of Colorado, Boulder


Thank you very much, Tim, for your support in nominating me for the 2016 Waldo E. Smith Award. I’d also like to thank the awards committee and my friends and colleagues who provided letters for the nomination package. A special treat for me in winning the award was the opportunity to learn about Waldo Smith, the first executive director of AGU. I especially resonate with the quote associated with him, “There is more to doing science than doing science.”

My early advisors and mentors instilled in me the importance of service (editing, refereeing, organizing meetings, contributing to education and public outreach efforts, teaching, mentoring, leading groups, and advocating for science). I’d like to mention and thank a few of them here. One is my undergraduate research advisor, ­Syun-­Ichi Akasofu, who while I was working with him as a research assistant (digitizing analogue Russian magnetograms) became the director of the Geophysical Institute at the University of ­Alaska–­Fairbanks. I watched as he continued an active research program, directing the institute, and traveling the world in various service roles. My Ph.D. advisor, Jeff Hughes, also took on a leadership role as the inaugural director of the Center for Space Physics while I was his Ph.D. student at Boston University. I was able to observe his role in bringing faculty, staff, and students together to make an environment conducive for learning and research. Finally, I’d like to thank a few program managers and colleagues who gave me early opportunities to contribute to the geosciences: Bob Carovillano (who passed away a year ago) and Mary Mellot at NASA invited me to participate in my first NASA review panels and MOWGs; Sunanda Basu and Kile Baker at NSF provided opportunities to contribute to a number of research and education efforts. Janet Kozrya in her role on the AGU Publication Committee’s GRL Editor Search Committee in 2004 and Jim Burch in his role on the AGU Reviews of Geophysics ­Editor-­in-­Chief Search Committee in 2009 set me on the path of nearly a decade of editorial service. I’d also like to thank Lou Lanzerotti and Chris Russell, who in their leadership roles in the first Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey invited me to participate.

Finally, I’d like to thank my parents (Bill and Sally Moldwin) who were the original role models for me in community service and my wife (Patty Hogan) for her support, encouragement, and love.

—Mark B. Moldwin, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Mark B. Moldwin


Meinrat O. Andreae received the 2014 Waldo E. Smith Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors an individual for “extraordinary service to geophysics.”



It is a great pleasure and an honor to give the citation for the 2014 Waldo E. Smith Award to Meinrat “Andi” Andreae. Andi is director of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Mainz. Professor Andreae stands out because of his ability to see the big picture, to identify the major questions in science, and to propose a path to solve these key questions. This has put him in leading roles in many international scientific projects and programs and international assessment studies (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, World Meteorological Organization, and many others) as a member of scoping and planning teams that have developed international scientific programs, e.g., the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) core projects on atmospheric chemistry (IGAC) and on -land--atmosphere interaction (iLEAPS).

His early studies showed the importance of marine biogenic sulfur emissions, in which he proposed a feedback loop between marine biota and climate, mediated through the effect of aerosols on clouds. This work structured the critical links with feedbacks between climate and natural biogeochemistry cycles in marine ecosystems and, more recently, also in terrestrial ecosystems. He has also done extensive work on global biomass burning, coordinating the Biomass Burning Experiment (BIBEX) under the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) project.

His investigations on the interactions of atmospheric composition with climate, land use, and the water cycle influenced IGBP to do a higher level of science integration, initiating the Integrated Land -Ecosystem--Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS). Under Andreae’s leadership, the studies on aerosol-cloud interactions led to the iLEAPS–IGAC–Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) project on -aerosol--cloud--precipitation--climate interactions, a critical issue today.

Andreae was instrumental in setting up collaborations between scientists from developed countries and colleagues in developing countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. His extensive long-term collaboration with Brazil, where he was one of the initiators of the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA), was honored by his becoming a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. Andreae is also the central scientist in the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory project, the first tall tower laboratory in any tropical region.

Andreae has been and still is an extremely productive scientist, with more than 430 published papers and more than 28,000 citations, giving him an h index of 81. Furthermore, Andi’s personal character is also important; he is always ready to help and to guide undergraduate students, technicians, and colleagues from around the world. In Amazonia, he helped build up a full generation of young scientists during his participation in LBA over the last 15 years.

Andi Andreae’s achievements in geoscience communication are truly outstanding, and I congratulate him on this well–deserved AGU honor.

—Paulo Artaxo, University of São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil


Thank you very much, Paulo, for those kind words. I’d also like to thank AGU’s Award Committee, the reviewers and nominators, and all the friends and colleagues who invested their time and effort to support my nomination. Thank you, my friends and colleagues, for this unexpected honor!

When asked to respond to so much praise, I discovered that—at least for me—it is far more difficult to respond to praise than it is to praise others. So let me take this opportunity to give credit to two people who had profound impacts on my thinking and my scientific career. The first one is Ed Goldberg, my Ph.D. thesis advisor. By giving me a thesis topic that involved microbiology as well as chemistry, that spanned from sedimentary pore waters to atmospheric aerosols, he made me aware of the importance and power of interdisciplinary research and of the complex interactions between all components of the Earth system. Ed also taught me the importance of serendipity, to always keep my eyes open for the unexpected and unintended outcome of an experiment. Such serendipitous results may yield more important and novel insights than the original objective of the experiment. For example, my work on dimethylsulfide (DMS) and climate began with the observation of extra peaks in gas chromatograms during my thesis work on arsenic. Paulo mentioned my preference for looking at the “big picture,” something that I also owe thanks to Ed Goldberg for. He always emphasized the importance of looking at whether our questions and conclusions made sense in the big picture and of not getting bogged down in minutiae.

The other person I’d like to acknowledge is my friend and colleague at Max Planck, Paul Crutzen. Paul gave me the opportunity to work with him in the early stages of the design of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), setting an agenda based on interdisciplinary research—-especially in bringing together the biological and atmospheric sciences—and a global, Earth system perspective. Paul was also instrumental in bringing me into the Max Planck Society, the institution that gave me the freedom and resources to develop an international research program, out of which grew interactions with scientists from around the world, who have become cherished colleagues and friends.

Finally, I would like to say thanks to my wife, Tracey, and my daughter, Claire, for patiently enduring the absences and distraction that come with a busy international scientist’s life.

—Meinrat O. Andreae, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany

Past medal recipients

The Waldo E. Smith Medal is inactive. In June 2012, the Council agreed to the Honors & Recognition Committee’s recommendation to reclassify the Waldo E. Smith Medal to a Union Award following the approved Union-wide criteria for a medal and an award.

David Simpson was awarded the 2012 Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 5 December 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “extraordinary service to geophysics.”



Modern global earthquake monitoring, enabled by developments in seismometry and partnerships among academic and government institutions, is a fundamental component of international geoscience infrastructure. In addition to supporting fundamental research, monitoring provides the essential information needed to improve our preparation for and response to earthquake disasters. For U.S. seismologists and their collaborators, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) has been the backbone organization supporting the acquisition and management of data underpinning seismological research, education, and applications. The individual most responsible for IRIS’s record of success is David Simpson, who has served as its President since 1991.

After receiving his advanced degrees from Dalhousie and the Australian National University, David began his academic career at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. At Lamont, he conducted research on induced seismicity and satellite remote sensing. His move to the presidency of IRIS was meant to be temporary, but he was prevailed upon to stay.

David personifies the qualities celebrated by the Smith Medal. His imprint on geophysics is evident in the keen dependence of Earth scientists on IRIS facilities, and the precision with which those facilities are managed. The IRIS model of open governance, agency and international partnerships, technical development, and efficient management and operations is held by many to be the ideal blueprint for shared scientific facilities. The IRIS consortium, comprising virtually all of the U.S. academic institutions engaged in seismological research as well as a multitude of government and international partners, is itself the archetype for scientific community building and engagement. But the success of all of this is built on the confidence that there is a good captain at the helm, that there is aggressive stewardship of the principles of operational excellence and free exchange of data, and that there is a leader that can represent the broadest interests of the community. David embodies all of this, and more.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the rapid growth in the number of institutions with leading programs in seismology, and the impact IRIS facilities have had on early-career seismologists. It is now possible to be at any institution and have access to earthquake data in near real time, as well as to the most sophisticated instrumentation for targeted field experiments. Additionally, young scientists find that the technical barriers to data acquisition have been so lowered as to be essentially irrelevant to their productivity. Now, a lifetime of data is available for analysis.

Given the expansion and vitality of observational seismology enabled by IRIS, one might expect a certain satisfaction about the state of seismological data acquisition. Seismologists certainly are a happy bunch. But it is clear that the coherence of the IRIS consortium empowers young and old with the tools to think big. EarthScope is but one example. The recent Cascadia Initiative is another. These are the results of responsive leadership and discriminating judgment. David Simpson is a fitting reminder of why the AGU celebrates “extraordinary service to geophysics” with the Smith Medal.

–Arthur Lerner-Lam, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.


It is a great honor to accept the Waldo E. Smith medal. I do so in the name of many and in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation that lie at the core of the AGU and the IRIS Consortium.

The geosciences differ in many fundamental ways from other branches of the physical sciences. Ours is a place-based, global and international science that relies on exploration and observations in all parts of the world. The vision of the founders of IRIS, and the sustained support from the National Science Foundation, have been deeply rooted in a conviction that, provided with resources, driven by science and given responsibility, the academic research community can set priorities and define the pathways to develop and sustain the observational facilities that they require to advance their scientific goals.

It has been a true joy to be involved with IRIS and watch it grow over the past 25 years. The Consortium has evolved and been constantly renewed by an engaged and stimulating community of scientists who have given freely of their time and talents to help guide the facilities that IRIS develops and maintains. Key to the success of this community venture has been a deep commitment to free and open data exchange, shared and multi-use resources, high quality standards, within a framework of community governance, international collaboration, and multi-agency support.

To AGU and those who nominated me, I express my deep and humble thanks for the honor of receiving the Smith Medal. To my friends, mentors, colleagues and family, I extend my heartfelt appreciation for a lifetime of support and encouragement. To the many who have guided IRIS through its development as a Consortium, we are all indebted for your vision and insightful guidance. To the talented and dedicated staff at IRIS and our partner organizations, I extend, on behalf of a grateful global community of scientists, sincere appreciation for your efforts in transforming NSF’s financial support into first class global resources for our science.

It is my sincere hope that, in the ever-increasing technological, fiscal, and political complexities of our modern world, a culture of free and open sharing of the highest quality data, resources and ideas, as espoused by IRIS and led and governed by the Earth science community, will continue to thrive and enrich the contributions that our scientists have to offer to the world.

–David Simpson, IRIS Consortium, Washington, D. C.

A. Fred Spilhaus, Jr. was awarded the 2010 Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 15 December 2010 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “extraordinary service to geophysics.”



For most of the past 40 years, Fred Spilhaus led AGU with dedication, creativity, and leadership, making AGU a model union and a strong integrating force and professional home for Earth and space scientists across the globe. That AGU is held in such high regard stems mainly from Fred’s insistence that the Union be inclusive of all Earth and space scientists and that scientific quality and integrity hold the highest priority. Fred also bequeathed to AGU long-term financial stability.

Fred obtained a Ph.D. in physical oceanography in 1965 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and after 2 years of government experience joined AGU in 1967 as assistant executive director under Waldo Smith. That same year, the Solar Terrestrial Relations (now Space Physics and Aeronomy) section was formed, an action important for AGU, as space physics was a rapidly growing field without its own society. Fred became AGU executive director in 1970, a time when AGU was on the move. Radio Science had just become an AGU publication (1969), the Union was incorporated as an independent scientific society with members gaining the right to vote and hold office (1972), Geophysical Research Letters began publication (1974), and Chapman Conferences started (1975).

Fred ensured that AGU was popular by keeping fees low and by providing Eos (of which he was editor in chief) to all members. Fred’s efforts to bring meetings to underserved geographical areas (the Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting and the Meeting of the Americas) had a similar purpose. He recognized that younger scientists often could not afford to travel to the United States, so he brought the meetings to them.

Fred often said that strong national societies are critical to the strength of geophysics. His spirit of inclusiveness extended throughout the Union; its robust committee structure gave members an opportunity to take an active role in directing AGU. Fred also generously supported and accommodated fledgling scientific societies (The Mineralogical Society in its early years) and other groups such as the Global Change System for Analysis, Research, and Training and the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc.

Fred was elected an AGU Honorary Fellow in 1996. To this day, only three people have been given this prestigious award. It was given in recognition of a lifetime of achievement on behalf of AGU, but many years of service and accomplishments lay ahead. Milestones since then included establishment of Earth Interactions, the first electronic—only journal in Earth and space science; election of the first European member of the Council; creation of the Biogeosciences section; establishment of a complete electronic publication system; and the first Union-wide meeting in Latin America. Over 55,000 AGU members now benefit from Fred’s vision and hard work.

Fred is widely known as the dean of scientific society executives and has been highly commended for sharing his experience with the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (­CESSE). In 2009, ­CESSE renamed its highest honor the A. Fred Spilhaus Leadership Award. It has been awarded only eight times, including to Fred in 1995. In announcing the name change, ­CESSE noted that the board wanted “Fred’s name to be tied to this honor forever.”

Both of us have known Fred for many years. We have seen his personal involvement in the Council, in all meetings of the Union, and in other international organizations. Whatever the issue, Fred seemed more knowledgeable than most and had a keen sense of the best course of action. His engaging personality and strong leadership characteristics make him easy to know and fun to be around. It is indeed an honor for us to present the Waldo E. Smith Medal to Fred Spilhaus.

—CHRISTOPHER HARRISON, University of Miami, Miami, Fla.; and JAMES BURCH, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas


I am deeply moved by this medal. It means so much because, like all AGU medals, this one comes from the hearts of AGU members. I am blown away by the commendations of my citationists, Chris Harrison and Jim Burch. Their words are especially touching because of their own long and faithful service to AGU. They have both given unstintingly in many capacities over the years, and the Union is richer because of their contributions.

This medal is particularly dear to me because it honors my good friend and mentor—AGU’s first executive director—Waldo Smith. He richly deserved the recognition of having a medal named for him. During his 25 years as staff leader he laid a strong foundation for AGU on which we were able to build. I counted myself lucky to have worked with him for 3 years before I assumed the AGU helm. Throughout that time he encouraged me to experiment and to learn.

The principles Waldo lived by, and which I tried to emulate, were (1) our scientific mission always comes first and (2) the members are AGU. AGU welcomes members of the scientific community worldwide. (3) By watching the pennies, we build the resources needed to serve in the future.

Over the years, I was fortunate to work with many dedicated scientists in all parts of our globe. From my first days at AGU, members who treasured our Union proactively shared their experience and their vision with me. I learned constantly from these and so many other colleagues within the broad scientific community, the scientific and engineering societies, the trade associations, and the publishing and meetings industries.

Together within AGU we did interesting, exciting, and valuable things because the membership cared and participated. Together we helped AGU grow from a committee of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to an independent international scientific society with a membership of over 55,000 spread across more than 130 countries. In 1970, when AGU was invited to leave the Academy, we had a negative net worth. By 2007, together we had built a net worth of over 6 billion pennies. We had indeed heeded Waldo’s words of fiscal care, some might say frugality.

Waldo enjoyed his AGU career, and he enjoyed the membership. It wasn’t hard for me to join in the fun. You, the members, made all of my endeavors fun. As a result, I had the best job in the world from 1967 to 2009.

The fun was shared by many staff members who considered themselves your partners and mine. For them AGU was not just a job. Two staff members who kept me on track and contributed enormously are my very dear friends Brenda Weaver and Judy Holoviak. They are imaginative leaders in their fields and in learned-­society management. This medal recognizes the dedication of so many AGU staff members over the years.

My thanks to all of my staff and to all of the members with whom I worked. I treasure your good wishes.

—A. FRED SPILHAUS, JR., Executive Director Emeritus, AGU

Harsh K. Gupta was awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting honors ceremony, which was held on 13 December 2006 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal recognizes extraordinary service to geophysics.



It is a great pleasure to introduce Harsh Gupta as the 2008 AGU Waldo E. Smith medalist. Gupta has made significant and innovative contributions in several areas of geosciences (seismology, tectonics, marine geophysics, geothermal resources). He is internationally known for his pioneering work devoted to characterizing earthquakes triggered by filling of artificial water reservoirs, discriminating them from normal earthquakes, and developing innovative mitigation procedures. He also had several major contributions on seismic and geodynamic processes at work in the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan regions, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea, as well as on characterization of seismic rupture zones of the Koyna and Latur stable continental regions.

Quite early in his career, it became clear that in addition to his impressive scientific credentials, Gupta also had a flair for scientific leadership. As the director at the age of 40 years, he was responsible for building the Centre for Earth Science Studies at Trivandrum (India), before taking over as the vice-chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology. In 1983, he led the Indian scientific expedition to Antarctica and established the first permanent Indian base, “Dakshin Gangotri.” In the early 1990s, he served as advisor to the Department of Science and Technology, government of India, and took several national research initiatives to enable the Indian science community to participate in international programs. For about a decade, Gupta served as the director of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) in Hyderabad. Under his stewardship, NGRI rose to be the top geosciences research institute in India. Gupta’s visionary leadership led NGRI to use the pool of basic research capabilities to address the country’s needs in hydrocarbons, minerals, and groundwater resources, a crucial question for agriculture in India. In the recent past, serving as secretary to the government of India in the Department of Ocean Development, Gupta implemented several new programs, in particular, gas hydrate exploration, detailed mapping of the entire exclusive economic zone of India—hence preparing India’s legal claim for the continental shelf—and tapping the energy of the oceans for power generation as well as production of potable water for remote island communities. After the 2004 Sumatra earthquake, Gupta was responsible for designing and implementing a unique tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean within record time. All of his leadership stints are marked by his extreme results-oriented approach that has helped him carry out diverse roles with great distinction and poise.

On the international scene, Gupta has demonstrated effective leadership capabilities through his long-standing involvement with renowned international organizations such as the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth’s Interior, and the International Council of Scientific Unions, in which he serves at the highest levels.

For his wide range of scientific contributions in the field of geophysics, his unique leadership in scientific policy, his numerous accomplishments to develop and promote geophysical research and its applications to societal needs in India, and his extraordinary services to geosciences communities in India and worldwide, Harsh Gupta is a most worthy recipient of the Waldo E. Smith Medal of the American Geophysical Union.

—ANNY CAZENAVE, Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, Toulouse, France


Thank you, Anny, for that wonderful citation. I indeed feel greatly honored to receive the prestigious Waldo E. Smith Medal from AGU, one of the most respected science societies of the world.

Among the previous recipients of this medal, I had the good fortune of personally knowing and having the patronage of Cecil Green. In the early 1970s, when our first book, Dams and Earthquakes, was published, I was at the University of Texas at Dallas. There was front-page coverage in the Dallas Morning News. Ida and Cecil Green invited us to their home and congratulated us. After several years, we decided to return to India. We were invited again by the Greens, and it took me a while to convince them that we were totally happy at Dallas, and our decision to return to India was due to my desire to work in my own country. I remained an adjunct professor at Dallas for over a quarter of a century!

Among the various responsibilities that I have been involved with, the most challenging has been the setting up of the first permanent base for India in Antarctica in one Antarctic summer, 1983–1984. We had only 60 working days available, several of them lost to blizzards and whiteouts. To set up a base of 20,000 square feet complete with heating, laboratories for scientific work, living area for 16 people, etc., was a herculean task. However, in spite of very difficult odds, due to team work and good luck, we succeeded. It was a record set in 1984 and is still a record.

The 21st century is extremely important for Earth sciences. The very existence of the human race depends on how well we understand the working of planet Earth and halt its further deterioration. Since the International Geophysical Year of 1957, we have come a long way. We are becoming aware of our problems and the very limited knowledge that we possess. It is gratifying that four international years, International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE), International Polar Year (IPY), International Heliophysical Year (IHY), and Electronic Geophysical Year (eGY), are being concurrently observed. Let us hope that a desirable impact is made, particularly on young students, so that tomorrow we have more responsible citizens to take better care of Mother Earth.

I must confess that the majority of the achievements credited to me would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of my colleagues and collaborators, and I share this honor with all of them. I am indebted to my teachers Jagdeo Singh and B. P. Saha. Hari Narain, Yasuo Sato, Mark Landisman, Anton Hales, B. P. Radhakrishna, and V. Ramachandran are a few among those who guided and supported me.

My wife, Manju, stood behind me all these long years. Our daughters, Nidhi and Benu, made me feel proud of small achievements and recognitions. For about one half of my life, I have been away from home, in the field, on the oceans, or at meetings, gracefully accepted by my wife and daughters.

—HARSH K. GUPTA, National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, India

John A. Knauss was awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting honors ceremony, which was held on 13 December 2006 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal recognizes extraordinary service to geophysics.



John Knauss has served as a leader and key decision-maker in the scientific community and the public sector for nearly six decades. From the start of his career he focused on the most fundamental elements of the physical dynamics of the ocean, developing the seminal thinking in topics as diverse as turbulence effects on acoustics and deep ocean current observations. His early work on the Cromwell current established John as a leading researcher in the geophysics community. He quickly established a global reputation for his seminal work on the current structure of many major ocean circulation features. By the mid 1960s, Knauss had already established his scientific credentials and leadership role, with a robust bibliography of technical papers in the most prestigious scientific journals. Notably, in the years leading to this position, John also worked as a naval officer at the newly formed U.S. Office of Naval Research and as a staff member of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, Calif.).

In the late 1960s, John’s career took on a new component: public policy. John was appointed by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson to serve on the Stratton Commission. This commission provided our nation’s most comprehensive set of recommendations regarding marine policy to that time. One outcome of the Stratton Commission recommendations was the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for which President George H.W. Bush appointed Knauss as administrator in 1989. Two other American presidents appointed Knauss to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmospheres. It is most noteworthy that John served in these leadership capacities at a time when American ocean policy development included passage of essential legislation dealing with coastal zone management, marine protected areas, marine mammal protection, and clean water preservation. Not surprisingly, in 1988 the U.S. Congress passed legislation changing the name of the Sea Grant Fellowship Program to the Dean John A. Knauss Fellowship Program. John also served as President of the American Geophysical Union from 1998 to 2000. But John’s service in public policy was not limited to U.S. activities. He also advised the State Department and the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, was an officer of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and served as the U.S. Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission during critical periods for all of these bodies.

John Knauss’s breadth of technical expertise, management experience, and leadership in public policy are reflected in his extraordinary portfolio of recognition. He has received numerous awards from universities, governments, and professional societies. He is a Fellow of three societies, has been inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, and received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Rhode Island. The casual reader of John’s curriculum vitae cannot but be overwhelmed with the breadth and depth of his accomplishments. By any metric—publications, awards, positions of public service, or advisory roles—John Knauss has exemplified the elements of ‘unique leadership’ and ‘extraordinary service.’ It is for this reason, above all, that John Knauss is a most worthy recipient of the Waldo E. Smith Medal of the American Geophysical Union.



I may be the last recipient of the Waldo E. Smith medal who knew Waldo and worked with him. Waldo Smith was the executive director of AGU during the International Geophysical Year of a half century ago. This was the period when AGU went from one publication (Transactions of the AGU) and from a rather small, quiet, professional organization to the many sided, multiple-publication, dynamic organization we have today.

Waldo rode this bull very well. There were few, if any, hiccups during his watch. I found myself chairing the ocean science delegation to the IUGG meeting in Helsinki in 1959. Waldo was there of course. He was everywhere and was completely unflappable. Everything went smoothly.

I am sure Waldo had a private life and interests outside of AGU, but to this young man watching him in action at the time, it was not obvious.

AGU continues to be an excellent, well-run organization. Waldo was in charge during what had to have been one of its most challenging periods.

I am very proud to be the recipient of an award named after him.

—JOHN A. KNAUSS, University of Rhode Island (retired), Narragansett

J. Michael Hall received the Smith Medal at the 2004 Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony on 15 December, in San Francisco, California. The medal is given for extraordinary service to geophysics.



Mike Hall has been the preeminent civil servant involved in the creation of modern Earth systems science. Through more than 30 years of public service, he has built an unparalleled record of innovation and leadership in mobilizing scientific talent and government resources for global scale, internationally organized research programs in weather, climate, oceanography, and the environment.

Dr. Hall’s record of accomplishments reflects a continually expanding vision of how the very best science can be mobilized in the service of society. Early in his career, he played a central role in conceptualizing the notion that the ocean should be systematically “observed” through a network of buoys. This was merely the first of his many contributions to the emergence of today’s global Earth observing system. His stewardship of the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program was instrumental in facilitating the effective collaboration between atmospheric and oceanographic sciences that ultimately demonstrated the predictability of El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO). TOGA stands today as the gold standard for effective international programs in the geosciences.

Building on his TOGA experience, Dr. Hall became the principal advocate of a truly interdisciplinary approach to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. When almost no one else was doing so, he took the lead in reaching out to bring biological and, especially, social scientists into the effort as the fully integrated partners they have become today.

Recognizing more than a decade ago that excellent Earth systems science was necessary but not sufficient for managing the challenges of global change, Dr. Hall began encouraging a series of experiments in how to bring the users and producers of such science closer together in partnerships. His development of a Climate and Social Interactions group within NOAA, his advocacy for a use-driven International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, and his support for research on the efficacy of different ways to integrate research, observation, assessment, and decision support have paved a way that others are only now beginning to follow.

In building his unparalleled record of programmatic accomplishments, Mike Hall has defined the model of a scientific program manager. He has shaped exciting research programs by listening carefully to the views, opinions, and concerns of a broad range of scientists and users, creatively synthesizing the best of what he hears, and then pushing us just a little beyond what we thought we could do.

He has demonstrated that personal integrity and a commitment to putting programmatic goals ahead of bureaucratic self-interest can build powerful interagency coalitions to support such programs. He has cultivated scientific excellence by seeking out the best researchers no matter where they are in the world, running fiercely competitive grants programs, but still betting occasionally on the unconventional and untried. He has had the courage to fail, launching risky experiments, but insisting on learning from them through the use of independent and transparent program evaluations from his toughest critics. Perhaps most important, he has fostered young talent, training and supporting the professional development of a generation of the best science program managers in today’s civil service.

For his vision, his innovations in program management, his nurturing of young talent, and his deeply held values that have so advanced science in the service of humanity, I join with my assembled colleagues in proudly presenting to J. Michael Hall the AGU Waldo E. Smith Medal

—WILLIAM C. CLARK, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The members of the AGU honor me deeply with this award. Above all else, your action is humbling, in large part because of the company one is placed in by the receipt of the Waldo E. Smith Medal. My feeling on finding myself in that company is beyond words. I can only thank all of you for your kindness.

Another compelling humility derives from the need “to own up to those who were the means of one’s achievements” (Pliny). The American novelist E. L. Doctorow at last summer’s “Einstein Celebration” in Aspen quoted an 1865 essay to link literary achievement with scientific advancement, suggesting that “two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment.” Much could be said about the “moment” in Earth sciences; I wish to emphasize one particular aspect in accepting this award. Countless hardworking and gifted individuals were involved in the aggregate achievements for which the AGU honors me.

The words of the award citation refer to “mobilizing scientific talent” and entraining social scientists as “fully integrated partners.” They suggest that “powerful interagency coalitions” were formed and that “the best researchers in the world” were involved. One sees intrinsically that an enormous circle of cooperating individuals was ultimately formed. Furthermore, the citation speaks of “listening and synthesizing,” of “evaluations by his toughest critics,” and of fostering “the best program managers.” Clearly, many of the most talented individuals in our field worked with me on a continuing basis to develop successful initiatives. The countless moments of intense interaction with these dedicated people made the difficult tasks of our science eminently enjoyable for me. I can say, beyond any doubt, those moments, including this one, are the high points of my professional life.

—J. MICHAEL HALL, Ohio State University, Hilliard

Michael J Hall


Ivan I. Mueller was awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Spring Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on 29 May 2002, in Washington, D.C. The medal recognizes extraordinary service to geophysics.



“The era of artificial Earth satellites is characterized by a number of outstanding individuals of either immense scientific potential, of visionary foresight for new developments, or of unique leadership capabilities for the coordination of crucial scientific programs. There is but a tiny group of scientists who can be said to possess these three qualities together. One of these individuals is Dr. Ivan Mueller.

“After graduating from the Technical University of Budapest, he started his academic career in 1960 at the Department of Geodetic Science and Surveying at Ohio State University. Soon he became professor in the department, and in the course of the more than 30 years as its academic teacher, he turned it into one of the most important geodetic training centers in the United States and worldwide. Through its own students and its guest scientists from abroad, this institute has exerted for decades an internationally fundamental influence on geodetic research. The books written by Dr. Mueller and his works on contemporary satellite geodesy, reference systems, and the use of modern satellite observation techniques strongly influenced generations of young scientists in the field of modern geodetic techniques and led to the founding of the exciting new field of space geodesy for Earth system studies.

“With his distinctive frankness and authority, his vision and leadership ability, and his diplomatic intuition, he guided many scientists and, scientific groups on the international scene in directions considered proper and worthwhile by him. In this way, he played an outstanding role in shaping modern satellite geodetic research, in particular, the international coordination of programs leading to the introduction of collateral improvements of measurement techniques, of Earth-based tracking networks, and of usable geodetic satellite targets.

“This holds especially for the COSPAR/IAG-sanctioned Commission on International Coordination of Space Techniques for Geodesy and Geodynamics (CSTG), the IUGG/IAU-sanctioned International Earth Rotation Service (IERS), and the IUGG-sanctioned International GPS Service (IGS). Ivan Mueller has been instrumental as the key international leader in the original formation of these services and in their evolution up to today.

“The project MERIT (Monitor Earth Rotation and Intercompare the Techniques) and the IAG working group COTES (Conventional Terrestrial Reference Systems), chaired by Ivan Mueller, were the initiatives in the late 1970s for starting the Earth rotation monitoring using primarily space geodetic techniques and for maintaining the terrestrial reference frame using all geodetic techniques. They developed into the IERS, which was launched in 1983. It operated very successfully over the next decade, and as president of the IAG in the years 1987-1991, Ivan Mueller closely followed the IERS developments. By the mid-1990s, it became apparent that the IERS needed to be re-organized to better serve its user communities. Again, it was Ivan Mueller who led the very difficult process of forming a consensus among IERS members on adopting a re-organized structure for the IERS and for implementing those changes. His contributions were absolutely pivotal to the realization of the IERS today.

“By 1987, it became apparent that an international service for precise GPS ephemerides and related products would be needed. What was lacking at that point was a unified approach to creating such a service. It was again Ivan Mueller, president of the IAG at that time, who had a clear vision of the best approach for creating such a service. Under his leadership, a working group developed the organizational structure for the IGS, defined its standards, prepared its terms of reference, formulated its plans for a pilot project, and co-opted its members. By the 1991 IUGG meeting in Vienna, the IGS was established, becoming operational in 1993. No other IAG service has been more successful and bears more clearly the imprint of Professor Mueller’s skills and wisdom than the IGS.

“Today’s relative precision of a few parts per billion for the terrestrial reference system and its precise link to the celestial system are without question unthinkable without the fundamental scientific contributions and complex international collaborative arrangements which Dr. Ivan Mueller initiated during his active career and even beyond. Many of the interdisciplinary investigations of the Earth system became possible only through his pioneering activities. The international geodetic community accounts itself happy that Dr. Ivan Mueller is awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal.”

—CHRISTOPH REIGBER, GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Germany


“It is a great honor and a pleasure to receive this award. It is wonderful to be acknowledged in this way, especially by the AGU, the foremost society of Earth scientists in the world, by the selection committee, and by colleagues who must have written quite unreasonable letters of recommendations full of exaggeration, similar to those of Christoph’s in the citation.

“It is especially nice to receive this medal as a geodesist. I had problems with this designation from the very beginning, when people started to inquire what geodesy really means, especially in the United States, and how did I become a geodesist. My latest experience in this regard happened just last week, when as the representative of our graduate school, I participated in a Ph.D. examination in arts education. After introducing myself (and my profession), the chair of the committee, looking at my gray hair, responded, ‘So you must be then from the Medical School!,’ obviously thinking of geriatrics. This, after we publicized everywhere on the campus the forthcoming October symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of geodetic science at OSU! On the same theme, during the time when my children went to high school, their schoolmates (and their parents) asked them what their father’s profession was. Geodesy? Never heard of it! In retrospect, I think they probably did not believe that there was such a thing and that I just made up a cover story. To my great pleasure, my daughters are here today, and I hope they will leave convinced that I did practice a legitimate profession after all.

“So how did I become a geodesist? First, I survived WWII and the various occupations (German and Soviet) of Hungary. Second, I actually matriculated from a high school, which was the alma mater of an unusually large number of Nobel Prize winners (John von Neumann, Eugen Wigner, John Harsanyi (Economics), who jointly received the prize with John Nash, etc.). The principal of the school and my math teacher was an assistant of Eotvos. My successful matriculation should not diminish the reputation of these great people.

“I actually started out studying architecture, then structural engineering, and received a degree in civil engineering (like Waldo Smith, whom I had the pleasure to know, after joining AGU in 1959). Neither profession gave me the excitement that I expected and, for this (and other) reasons, I decided to have an early ‘career change’ and, quoting Robert Frost, ‘took a road less traveled by’ (mapping) and ‘that has made all the difference.’ Unlike today, when the main practitioners of geodesy are in the Earth sciences, at that time they were supporting mapping. This is how I became a geodesist and started to work for an advanced degree.

“All this was interrupted by the events on October 23, 1956, the Hungarian Revolution. After escaping to Austria, we became refugees and some time later were deposited by the U.S. Army in Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, with my wife and a 6-month-old baby. Thanks to the generosity of this great country and its people, the next 45 years are not worth mentioning. Thereafter I never had to ‘work’ for a living. No, we did not go on welfare; work was just pure pleasure, not a daily chore.

“Of course, the luck of being at the right place at the right time (Sputnik in 1956) also helped: The space age had just started and so did space geodesy and its government support. With the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, I visited the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Dr. Hynek (later at Chicago of UFO fame) wanted to send me to the newly-established optical satellite tracking station at Naiti Tal in the Himalayas (without the family). They also arranged for an interview in Columbus with Professor Weikko Heiskanen, director of the Institute of Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Cartography at OSU (the 1956 Bowie Medalist). He eventually became my Ph.D. advisor and invited me to join the faculty in 1960. There I remained for decades and enjoyed every (?) minute of it.

“After retirement, if you can call it that, I volunteered to join the Board of Trustees of the Columbus Chamber Music Society. It seemed like another worthwhile and pleasurable involvement, especially because chamber music relies upon the collective instincts, experience, knowledge, and talent of the participants to guide the process. It also places the highest order of responsibility upon the individual to engage in a close dialogue with others in the ensemble.

“By now, you should have a sense of where I am heading: it is the same high order of responsibility and collective effort that made the international projects and services mentioned in the citation a reality. Chamber musicians do not need a conductor. Neither did the participants of these scientific efforts. I was just fortunate to be one of the ‘players.’ Thus, I accept this medal on behalf of the several hundred ‘performers’ in the ensembles of the IERS, IGS, ADOS, etc., whose confidence I was fortunate to enjoy and whose friendship I will always cherish.

“Although I cannot claim to have lived up to the words of the citation by my friend of almost 40 years, I am grateful for being honoring me, and for the ‘ensembles,’ as well as for my wife, Marianne, and my daughters, Julie and Lisa, who although not quite understanding what I was up to, have always been my supporting pillars.”

—IVAN I. MUELLER, Ohio State University, Hilliard

Rosina M. Bierbaum was awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Spring Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on June 2, 2000, in Washington, D.C. The medal recognizes extraordinary service to geophysics.



“Dr. Rosina M. Bierbaum came to Washington, D.C. in 1980 as a Congressional Science Fellow in the oceans program of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), determined to play an important role in connecting environmental issues. Only a few–too few–Earth system scientists have had the vision and courage to commit themselves to the public policy arena immediately after completing their Ph.D. This nation, in fact all nations of the world, have benefitted from Rosina’s decision, and today we recognize her outstanding contributions throughout the last 2 decades to the analysis and assessment of a wide range of global and regional environmental issues, issues of critical importance to the nation. In Bob Palmer’s words, ‘I have known and worked with Dr. Bierbaum virtually from the day she arrived in Washington…she was instrumental in building OTA’s reputation as a thoughtful and reliable source of policy analysis in the environmental arena….’ In Bob Watson’s words, ‘…there is virtually no one in America who has a better grasp of these issues than Rosina.’

“Dr. Bierbaum has applied her sound and broad scientific background, outstanding analytical capabilities, superb practical sense and feel for political considerations, and exceptional oral and written communication skills to many assessments of issues such as natural hazards, acid rain, air and water quality, ecosystem management, and climate and global change. As a result of her efforts, political leaders throughout the world have received scientifically sound information and insights on which to base policy decisions. In Jerry Mahlman’s words, ‘…she became the interface between the science community and the Vice President and President on science/science policy issues.’

“Dr. Bierbaum served, with great distinction, for more than a decade in the Office of Technology Assessment, focusing on major environmental issues and their social and economic implications. For example, the report, “Preparing for an Uncertain Climate,” developed under her leadership, was one of the first comprehensive efforts to formulate conceptually a sustainable development strategy for the United States. She not only served as the principal leader of that and many studies and assessments at OTA but also was skilled at communicating the results of OTA’s studies to the public, industry, scientific and professional societies, and Congress through both formal testimony and informal briefings. For her outstanding leadership she was named a Senior Associate, OTA’s highest honor. In Bob White’s words, ‘She was the principal author…of Preparing for an Uncertain Climate…and that document remains as a landmark report on issues of adaptation to climate change.’

“For most of the last decade, Dr. Bierbaum has served with distinction in the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) of the President, most recently as Associate Director for Environment. Her contributions to the development of our nation’s policies on environmental programs are numerous and widely recognized. She has a unique talent that brings scientific understanding and insights to a complex process of public policy development. Dr. Bierbaum is recognized as one of the leaders in the national assessment of the consequences of climate variability and change for our nation, an assessment that is now well underway and which is a pathfinder effort among the nations of the world–another important example of leadership in the public policy arena. She was an early participant in the issue of climate change and continues to provide leadership in the work of both the International Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In Jack Gibbons words, ‘She’s the most constantly productive, capable, and effective colleague I’ve had in 2 decades.’

“She has provided balanced and thoughtful guidance that is based on her own broad scientific knowledge and her special ability to interact with many scientists to obtain the very best information for the policy under consideration. During 1998-1999, Dr. Bierbaum delivered numerous speeches and presentations to a wide variety of organizations across the nation on environmental issues, while at the same time interacting effectively with elected political officials, nationally and internationally. She has that rare talent of being able to address many issues congruently. In Ari Patrinos’ words, ‘She has displayed exceptional leadership, deep scientific insight, and a wonderful ability to motivate and inspire scientists and managers.’ And according to Tom Karl, ‘She has provided scientific leadership and foresight, uncommon in even the most articulate scientific leaders.’

“We are pleased to present to you someone who is a role model to all of us in both the scientific and policy world, this year’s Waldo E. Smith Medalist, Rosina M. Bierbaum.”

—RICHARD E. HALLGREN and ROBERT W. CORELL, American Meteorological Society, Washington, D.C.


“It is an honor to be in the company of such a distinguished audience. How did I get to be here, on this side of the stage? I started life as a scientist, a ‘discoverer’ of knowledge; then became an ‘assessor’ of knowledge; and now, from my office in the White House, have become a ‘user’ of knowledge.

“My parents reminded me that I also stood on a stage 30 years ago on the first Earth Day–that’s the day I won the regional science fair. Then, I was a teenager and newly enthralled with Rachel Carson’s book, The Sea Around Us. My plan was to study the ocean and uncover its secrets for the rest of my quiet research life.

“However, 20 years ago, I unexpectedly won a Congressional Fellowship and hesitantly ventured forth from the ivory tower of academia, knowing only that there were three branches of government. Many colleagues frowned upon me, saying it was not appropriate for scientists to be ‘tainted’ with policy. After all, Mark Twain called Washington ‘the asylum for the weak of spirit and the feeble of ability.’ On my first day in D.C., I attended a Congressional hearing, eager to hear a brilliant discourse between Congress and leading scientists testifying on ozone depletion and climate change. The uneasy exchange was sorely disappointing; the lawyers and the scientists spoke past–not to–each other. I realized that there was a crying need for translators and assessors of science, perhaps more so than that for one more, no-doubt brilliant, researcher in a lovely marine setting!

“Now, for the last 8 years, I’ve tried to coordinate the federal environmental research portfolio and set priorities, both to solve the nation’s problems and to continue to advance basic knowledge. But, all good research can’t be funded simultaneously. To help set priorities, we’ve done assessments on everything from endocrine disruptors to climate change.

“Science is not the loudest voice in Washington, and science funding is not an entitlement; it competes with school lunches and veterans’ benefits. Scientists must communicate their findings and the value of science to others. We must explain the importance of continuing and enhancing research funding. We must not be afraid to interpret how science can be used to make wise policy decisions today, even as we continue to reduce uncertainties tomorrow.

“It is awe-inspiring to be in the presence of so many D.C. mentors and to have citations from such leaders. Some, such as Bob Corell and Dick Hallgren, I’ve known for decades, and some have come more recently into my life. They are the antithesis of the ‘weak of spirit and feeble of mind’ that Twain warned us about. Washington needs many more of them! And special thanks to my earliest mentors, Herman and Rosina Bierbaum, my parents, who raised me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be: a marine biologist, an assessor of science, or even a public servant.

“I am very, very honored that AGU is saying that being a translator, a communicator, and an assessor of science is something to aspire to, and that doing it well is a serious career for a scientist and worthy of this prestigious Waldo Smith Medal. Thank you so very much.”

—ROSINA M. BIERBAUM, Office of Science and Technology, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C.

Margaret (Peggy) Shea was awarded the Waldo E. Smith Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on December 8, 1998, in San Francisco, California. The medal recognizes extraordinary service to geophysics.



“Margaret (Peggy)Shea embodies the motto of AGU, ‘Unselfish Cooperation in Research.’ She is the epitome of a role model for the Waldo E. Smith medal, and is a paradox. Peggy not only has had a remarkable personal research career, but she has also expended an enormous amount of energy facilitating the research of others, especially within the international community. Not only is she a prodigious publisher, authoring or coauthoring over 300 papers, but she is also a prodigious editor, editing more reports, proceedings, and journals than AGU would grant me room to mention. Moreover, even though she has spent most of her career doing basic research for the U.S. Air Force, she was so highly regarded in the Soviet Union that she was a recipient of their Academy of Sciences’ Commemorative medal honoring 100 Years of International Geophysics.

“Peggy began her research career as a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, the first woman to receive an advanced degree in physics from that institution. After brief stints at the University of Hawaii and AVCO Corporation, she joined the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories (later known as the Geophysics Laboratory) at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, where she worked until her recent retirement from the federal civil service. Her work at AFGL concentrated on cosmic radiation and solar terrestrial phenomena. She is recognized as an expert in geomagnetic cutoff rigidities for cosmic radiation. Her cutoff rigidity tables are the international standard and have been adopted by the FAA for determining radiation dosage to air crews and by NASA for estimating radiation to astronauts. In fact, her technique for determining the values of cutoff rigidities and the application of asymptotic cones for high-energy solar proton event analyses are used by the whole of the cosmic ray community. She developed a technique to deconvolve the time varying anisotropies in the solar cosmic radiation. Her work on both solar particle events and geomagnetic cutoff rigidities enabled her to identify the presence of solar neutrons at the Earth at the onset of a relativistic solar proton event. She has been active in ferreting out and preserving unique, historical scientific records, and she has devoted much time and effort to bridging the gap between the scientific and engineering communities. Although she is now retired from the federal civil service, she has an emeritus position at the Air Force Research Laboratory and is an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“Peggy has served AGU in many ways, most notably as editor-in-chief of the U.S. National Report to the IUGG but also as a member of many AGU committees. She has served as vice-chairman of the U.S. National Committee for the IUGG and has been an active participant in SCOSTEP programs for 30 years. She has organized over 25 international meetings or symposia, has edited 18 scientific reports, and is now editor-in-chief of Advances in Space Research, an undertaking akin to being editor-in-chief of a major section of the Journal of Geophysical Research, but covering disciplines from Earth science to life science.

“In short, Peggy has been a spark plug on both the national and international scenes, realizing that solutions to global problems required global cooperation. It is rare at a major international solar-terrestrial meeting not to find Peggy and her husband Don Smart in attendance. She worked extensively with scientists from eastern European countries, long before it was politically correct. Her international activity has been recognized by not only the USSR Academy of Science medal, but also by Foreign Associateship in the Royal Astronomical Society, and corresponding membership in the International Academy of Astronautics.

“Lesser known, perhaps, are her many governmental activities, such as guiding many high school and college students from summer positions in her office to college graduation and successful careers. She has received several Air Force awards: the Scientific Achievement Award, the Air Force Association Citation of Honor, and the Guenter Loeser Memorial Award for outstanding career contributions to scientific research.

“Peggy received a letter of commendation for a special report she and two other scientists prepared on the solar and geophysical environment during September 1979 for the Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

“Lest we think she is ‘all science,’ Peggy is an accomplished needlepoint artist who also enjoys reading, photography, snorkeling and gardening.

“An exceptional person and member of the solar terrestrial community, Peggy is both a doer and a server. She is a human dynamo, a great colleague, and a smart lady. I am pleased to present to you someone who is only the second woman to receive a senior medal from AGU, this year’s Waldo E. Smith medal awardee, Margaret Ann Shea.”

—CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL, University of California, Los Angeles


“It is an extraordinary honor to have been selected as the recipient of the Waldo Smith Medal.

“I started my career during a period of time when studying engineering and particularly physics were not popular subjects for women. I had just turned 17 when I entered college, and during Freshman week the Dean of the College of Technology politely suggested that I transfer to the College of Liberal Arts.

“Throughout one’s career there are many decisions to be made. During my sophomore year in college I had a choice between taking Spring Break or working in the physics department for 90 cents an hour! I wanted the break but I took the job, and during that week I found that I really enjoyed the work. Subsequently, I was offered the opportunity to continue working in cosmic ray physics throughout the rest of my education, and I have been involved in various aspects of this scientific discipline ever since.

“Another big decision a few years later was whether to marry one of my coworkers. Our courtship was primarily spent doing computer problems on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Air Force computers. It was particularly fortunate that our Air Force laboratory did not prohibit a husband and wife from working together. We know our unique relationship greatly benefited both our careers, and I believe the Air Force also benefited.

“As my career advanced, I found myself increasingly involved in various national and international programs. My basic philosophy is to respect scientists for who they are, as individuals, without trying to gain an advantage from any position they might hold. This has afforded me excellent opportunities not only to advance my knowledge of science but also to work with and learn about people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Over the years, many long-lasting friendships have developed.

“I have been blessed with good fortune: parents who encouraged me to pursue my goals, a good education, helpful colleagues, and a wonderful and supportive husband of 32 years. I have had a fascinating career with the Air Force where, during those early years of space exploration, scientists were enthusiastically encouraged to expand the horizons in space research.

“I sincerely thank Professor Chris Russell for his nomination and the other nine gentlemen who wrote supporting letters. Also, I thank the members of the Smith Medal committee for selecting me as the recipient of this prestigious medal. I gratefully acknowledge the many wonderful people who have been instrumental throughout my career. Without the interaction with all of these people, I would not have achieved this honor.

“Finally, thinking back to my interview with the college dean who tried to discourage me from majoring in physics, I want to quote a poem by the famous New Hampshire poet, Robert Frost, that means a lot to me and best describes my satisfaction in the career decisions I have made.”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From “The Road Not Taken” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, Copyright 1944 by Robert Frost. Copyright 1916, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Co., Inc.

“For me, the road less traveled was the best decision I could have made.”

—MARGARET (PEGGY) SHEA, Phillips Laboratory, U.S. Air Force

The Waldo E. Smith Medal, which is awarded for extraordinary service to geophysics, was presented to Ned A. Ostenso at the 1996 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony on December 17, 1996, in San Francisco.



“Ned A. Ostenso spent much of his early scientific career in the field: regional gravity studies in Alaska, a seismic traverse across Greenland at 80°N, wintering over in Antarctica at Byrd station, more over-the-snow seismic and gravity traverses across Antarctica, running a line of absolute gravity pendulum stations along the length of Africa work that resulted in more than 50 scientific papers including ones with Charles Bentley that established the mass of the Antarctic ice cap and the topographic discontinuity between East and West Antarctica. However, it is not for this work that he is being honored with the Waldo E. Smith Medal. To commemorate that earlier career, there is an Ostenso mountain peak somewhere in Antarctica and an Ostenso seamount in the Arctic Ocean.

“In 1966, Ned took what he thought was to be a 1-year sabbatical from the University of Wisconsin to work at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Last spring, he retired after 30 years as one of the best and most respected of this nation’s federal science administrators.

“He was with ONR until 1977, where he progressed from project officer to `senior oceanographer.’ As the director of an oceanography program that was heavily supported by ONR, I remember Ned as a tough but fair program director. I also remember him for setting the tone for much of ONR’s style, including providing soft landings for university scientists (including their graduate students) it could no longer support. I expect ONR has the largest group of loyal alumni of any federal extramural research program. I believe that is in no small part a result of the civilized way ONR treats those it supports as well as those it can no longer support.

“During his 10 years in ONR, Ned had sabbaticals at both the White House and in Congress. While working with Congressman Mosher, he originated the work that became the National Climate Program and the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction legislation, two pieces of legislation that have contributed significantly to the furtherance of geophysics.

“In 1977, Ostenso was recruited by Robert White to join the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to run the Sea Grant Program which was starting its second decade. One of the unforeseen consequences of the way the Sea Grant Program was originally fashioned was that in time every coastal and Great Lake state expected to have one of its universities designated a Sea Grant college. After 10 years, the political pressure resulting from that assumption became almost unbearable. Ned arrived at a critical time, and he immediately set about devising ways to insure that the science in this state-federal partnership program was of high quality. That issue is no longer in question, and the Sea Grant Program is widely recognized as one of the better managed federally supported ocean science programs.

“Ned completed his federal career by serving 7 years as NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Oceans and Atmospheric Research. Amongst his other responsibilities were NOAA’s 12 environmental research laboratories scattered nationwide from Princeton to Miami to Boulder to Seattle. I speak from first-hand experience when I say he did an absolutely first-class job in arranging for the care and feeding of these laboratories, and he had the support and respect of all of their directors, no small feat for a bureaucrat operating out of Washington.

“He helped negotiate the U.S./U.S.S.R. Bilateral Agreement in World Ocean Studies in 1972, and for nearly 20 years was the senior U.S. representative to that agreement. Most recently, he has played a key role in Vice President Gore’s Environmental Task Force and its reincarnation as the MEDEA Committee, whose task is to review highly classified environmental data for use by the civilian sector.

“Ostenso’s contributions to the American Geophysical Union are many, beginning with the Russian Translation Board and continuing through chairmanship of the Public Affairs Committee and service as a member of the Budget and Finance Committee. Most important and most recent was his chairmanship of the ad hoc real estate committee that oversaw the successful construction and financing of the wonderful new AGU headquarters.

—JOHN K. KNAUSS, Retired


“To be honored with the American Geophysical Union’s Waldo E. Smith Medal holds special meaning to me, since Waldo was one of my earliest mentors when I was an aspiring young geophysicist and new member of AGU. He and Martha became personal friends when Grace and I moved to Washington and located in their neighborhood. We enjoyed their good company and views of the world.

“Waldo emphasized the importance of membership involvement in the management of AGU affairs versus relying on a large staff infrastructure. He referred to AGU as being a volunteer organization and gave me an early opportunity to practice what he preached. Since then I have had numerous opportunities to serve AGU in a variety of ways. My rewards have been a great sense of personal satisfaction and enjoyable collegial associations; I never expected a medal.

“Since joining AGU in 1953, 1 have seen the scope of our research interests extend from the planets, and beyond, down to the workings of microorganisms. Our membership has expanded from a national to a global society. Important as this evolution has been, another even more significant change has occurred. That is the degree to which our research has an increasingly direct and immediate impact on society. We can no longer enjoy the sanctuary of an ivory tower, buffered by decades of development, before fundamental understandings influenced political processes and economic behavior. What attracts our interest is becoming the stuff of the press and even summit meetings. This will place increasing opportunities, if not demands, on AGU members to accept public service responsibilities, not only within our union but to society at large. I hope to continue to serve in this role. Thus, I accept this Waldo E. Smith Medal with gratitude, and with an ever greater sense of challenge.”

—NED A. OSTENSO, Retired

Cecil H Green


Earl George Droessler


Naoshi Fukushima


Philip H Abelson


Thomas F Malone


Waldo E. Smith

Name Year of honor
David Simpson 2012
A.F. Spilhaus, Jr. 2010
Harsh K. Gupta 2008
John A. Knauss 2006
J. Michael Hall 2004
Ivan I. Mueller 2002
Rosina Bierbaum 2000
Margaret A. Shea 1998
Ned Ostenso 1996
Cecil H. Green 1994
Earl G. Droessler 1992
Naoshi Fukushima
Philip H. Abelson
Thomas F. Malone 1986
Waldo E. Smith 1984


Honors Contacts

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Artesha Moore

Vice President, Affiliation, Engagement & Membership

202-777-7530 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Honors and Affiliation Program Coordinator

202-777-7515 | [email protected]