George P.L. Walker awarded 1995 Wollaston Medal

The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology is pleased to congratulate George P.L. Walker, Macdonald Professor of Volcanology, on his recent award of the 1995 Wollaston Medal. It is the most prestigious award given by the Geological Society of London--previous recipients include Charles Darwin (in 1859) and Xavier Le Pichon (in 1991).

Dr R.S.J. Sparks, the president of the Society and a former Walker graduate student, said in presenting the medal that Walker was "one of the most outstanding field geologists that Britain has produced and someone who can be justly considered the father of modern volcanology."

In 1954 Walker began a ten year research project on the relatively old basaltic plateaus that make up the whole of eastern Iceland. His early work included documenting the geological mechanism of sea-floor spreading by dyke injection and observations of burial metamorphism from zeolite zones that showed the inter-relationships of spreading, subsidence, tilting, and erosion. For these seminal contributions to the understanding of the geology of Iceland Walker was awarded the Order of the Falcon by the Icelandic government--the equivalent of a knighthood.

"Gradually, provoked by the Surtsey eruption in 1963, my interests moved from old volcanic rocks to active volcanism," Walker noted in his acceptance speech to the Society. "Having to wait so long to see my first eruption was I think advantageous in that it stretched my imagination." This new passion led him to Mount Etna in Italy, and then to New Zealand from 1978 to the end of 1980. In the New Year, 1981, he took his current position at the University of Hawaii, where he has continued his original and innovative research. As his attentions have returned to basaltic volcanoes and high level intrusions in the last few years, Walker has visited over 17 different Pacific island volcanoes and mapped the structural relationships of minor intrusions and lavas. Sparks notes that "from these data he has synthesized an entirely novel understanding of how basaltic volcanoes grow and evolve." In 1985 Walker was presented the UH Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Research, one of many awards he has earned over the years, including the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1982, and an honorary D.Sc. from the University of New Zealand in 1988.

Over the years, Walker has conducted over 100 courses and spent over 1000 days on student field trips. In recent years these field trips to the Big Island and around Oahu have developed a devoted following. His enthusiasm for field work and his encyclopedic knowledge of the topic inspires those around him, and has led many undergraduate students to make volcanology their life's work; Walker personally has been heavily involved in the studies of over 30 graduate students. In his acceptance Walker noted, "...I am fortunate to have had the freedom to pursue curiosity-driven research for so long. I consider, however, that my interaction with students is my most useful contribution."

These photos were taken by Tina Mueller on the G&G 400 class field trip to the Big Island of Hawaii on 20 and 21 October 1995. This is the last such trip he will be leading at the University of Hawaii in the foreseeable future: after fifteen years in these islands, George and his wife Hazel will return home to the British Isles at the end of the Fall semester.

Aloha nui loa!

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This page was last updated Thu 30 Nov 95. Please send all comments to Brooks Bays .

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