Saturday, January 8, 2011

Seismologist Jack Oliver

Jack Oliver, co-author of one of the seminal papers about plate tectonics and seismology, has passed away.

From the LDEO website, where you can read the full obituary:
Dr. John Ertle “Jack” Oliver, a geophysicist with roots at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory whose research helped revolutionize our understanding of the basic forces shaping the planet, died peacefully at his home in Ithaca, N.Y., on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. He was 87.
He was a former chair of the Department of Geology at Columbia University and head of the seismology program at Lamont from 1955-71.
Together with fellow Lamonters Bryan Isacks and Lynn Sykes, he wrote a paper in 1968, “Seismology and the new Global Tectonics,” which made a compelling geophysical case for the then-novel theory of plate tectonics, a theory that now forms the basis for all our current understanding of how the Earth works.
“It was literally the bible for understanding seismology,” said Larry D. Brown, a former student of Oliver’s who is now chairman of Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “It was one of the top five seminal papers on plate tectonics.”
“Jack Oliver, along with Bryan Isacks, Lynn Sykes, and others in the Lamont seismology group, showed how the properties of earthquakes were a near-perfect fit to the emerging theory of plate tectonics,” said Arthur L. Lerner-Lam, associate director of the seismology division at Lamont. “Their work was key in convincing scientists of the explanatory power of the ‘new global tectonics,’ and opened up new areas of research that even today remain fundamental.”
A pdf file of the Isacks, Oliver and Sykes paper can be downloaded here. I still use it in my teaching of geophysics because of the clear and illustrative examples.

1 comment:

  1. The Cornell page also has a bit of info along with a couple more recent pictures.


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