Thomas H. Jordan, Robert R. Schrock Professor of Geophysics, received a bottle of wine, a big rock and a Green Building tribute in lights when he stepped down after a decade as head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) on June 30. Ronald Prinn, TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, is the new department head.
On June 19, during a celebration at Walker Memorial of Professor Jordan's 10 years of service, certain Building 54 windows were illuminated to form a giant letter "T," topped by a light-rendered replica of Jordan's signature black fedora.
"It was fantastic, a great shindig. The EAPS administrative staff is a wonderful bunch of people, and I'll miss working with them. But I am pleased that the department's helm will be in the firm and competent hands of Ron Prinn," said Professor Jordan, noting that around 300 people attended the celebration.
During Professor Jordan's tenure as department head, he participated in the hiring of more than a quarter of the current EAPS faculty, including Institute Professor Mario Molina, who received the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Under Jordan's leadership, EAPS initiated the highly successful Center for Global Change Science and a new professional master's degree in geosystems.
Professor Jordan said he was especially touched by the gifts from his colleagues: an aged bottle of French Bordeaux wine and a large, museum-quality specimen of a greenish rock called harzbur-gite. Harzburgite originates deep beneath South Africa, where interesting geochemical properties create world-renowned diamonds and other rocks. "This is a very beautiful specimen--one of the largest of that type of specimen I've ever seen," said Professor Jordan, who credited Associate Professor Sam Bowring with arranging for the cut-and-polished specimen.
Professor Jordan, who will return to research and teaching, received a PhD in geophysics and applied mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1972, and served on the teaching faculties of Princeton University and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography before joining MIT in 1984. His primary research interest is earthquake processes and the seismological study of earth structure, especially the large-scale features related to mantle dynamics. His published work spans topics in seismology, geodynamics, plate tectonics, geodesy and marine geology.
Professor Prinn, director of the MIT Center for Global Change Science and co-director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, took over as head of the department. His research interests include the chemistry, dynamics and physics of the atmospheres of Earth and other planets and the chemical evolution of atmospheres. He leads the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE), in which the rates of increase of the concentration of trace gases involved in the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion have been measured continuously over the globe since 1978.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 12, 1998.