UH Professor Kevin Burke Receives 2014 Arthur Holmes Medal

Most Prestigious Solid Earth Scientist Award of the European Geosciences Union

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) has named University of Houston (UH) geology professor Kevin C. A. Burke recipient of the 2014 Arthur Holmes Medal & Honorary Membership. Burke has been a professor in UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics since 1983.

The Arthur Holmes Medal is one of the three most prestigious awards from the EGU and is given to scientists who have achieved exceptional international standing in solid Earth geosciences. The other two EGU awards recognize atmospheric sciences and planetary sciences.

Kevin BurkeThe citation for Burke's Holmes Medal reads:

The 2014 Arthur Holmes Medal & Honorary Membership is awarded to Kevin C. A. Burke for fundamental contributions to the fields of tectonics and evolution of the Earth on a global scale, including recognition of the Wilson cycle, mapping and interpretation of suture zones and continental aulocogens as failed rift systems related to continental break-up.

Burke delivered the Arthur Holmes Medal Lecture – “Plume Generation Zones at the Core Mantle Boundary: Their Origin and What They Tell about How the Earth Works and How it has Worked” – April 29 at the EGU 2014 General Assembly in Vienna.

As stated on the EGU website, "Kevin Burke and Arthur Holmes share a remarkable number of features and accomplishments. Both men were born and educated in England, developed a passion for and made outstanding contributions to the geology of Africa, achieved worldwide notoriety for global-scale geological processes, especially plate tectonics, and became prominent university professors with outstanding scientific intuition."

In 2007, Burke received the top honor of the Geological Society of America – the Penrose medal – also for his original contributions in the area of plate tectonics.

Born and raised in London, Burke received a Ph.D. in geology from the University of London based on a mapping and radiometric study of igneous rocks in western Ireland. Following his graduation, he held academic appointments in Gold Coast and Ghana, West Africa, the Geological Survey of Great Britain, Jamaica, and Nigeria. Burke was a professor at the University of Toronto in the early 1970s where he worked closely with J. Tuzo Wilson, one of the earliest proponents of plate tectonics.

From 1973 to 1982, he was a professor at the State University of New York in Albany where he collaborated with fellow professor John F. Dewey publishing a series of seminal papers on the origin of rifts, hotspots, sutures and other outcomes of moving plates on a spherical Earth. In the 1980s, Burke served as Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston and was influential in designing many of NASA's Earth and planetary studies.

Burke's active research focuses on how rocks at the Earth's surface relate to structures at the core/mantle boundary, the long-term stability of which he began to demonstrate a decade ago. He also teaches courses on plate tectonics and basins, continues to mentor UH graduate students, and works closely with other UH faculty members on a variety of projects.

His 197 publications cover a wide range of topics including plate tectonics, planetary geology, paleomagnetism, and Caribbean and Himalayan geology, and have been collectively cited more than 10,000 times by other authors.

The European Geosciences Union is a nonprofit international union of scientists with more than 12,500 members from all over the world. It is Europe's premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the geosciences and the planetary and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide.

Editors Note: Story written by Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 39,500 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with 193 ranked faculty and nearly 6,000 students, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics and physics conduct internationally recognized research in collaboration with industry, Texas Medical Center institutions, NASA and others worldwide.

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