Professor Burke Receives 2014 Arthur Holmes Medal

By Lisa Merkl

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

The 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.

The medal and honorary membership was awarded to 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.

Born and raised in London, Burke has 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. 

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