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Caltech’s Stolper Elected to Great Britain’s Royal Society

Membership in the Royal Society is bestowed each year on a small number of the world's scientists

Published on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 9:53 am

Edward M. Stolper, provost of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and William E. Leonard Professor of Geology, has been named a Foreign Member of Great Britain’s Royal Society. He is one of eight scientists elected in 2011. Stolper’s election brings to six the number of foreign members of the Royal Society currently on the Caltech faculty.

Membership in the Royal Society is bestowed each year on a small number of the world’s scientists. The oldest scientific academy in existence, the Royal Society was established in 1660 under the patronage of King Charles II for the purpose of “improving natural knowledge,” and helped usher in the age of modern science. Today, the Society seeks to promote science leaders who champion innovation for the benefit of humanity and the planet.

The Society cited Stolper for his “experimental and theoretical work on melting and igneous processes on the Earth, Mars, and asteroids.” The citation noted Stolper’s development of the so-called sandwich method for determining the phase equilibria that control melting in the mantles of Earth and other planets and his development of the first quantitative model of water speciation in glasses and silicate melts, which showed that H2O dissolves in magmas as both hydroxyl groups and as molecular water. The Society’s announcement also recognized Stolper as the first to propose that a small but distinctive group of igneous meteorites (the “SNC” group, which comprises the shergottite, nakhlite, and chassignite meteorites) come from the planet Mars; the first to show that certain dense silicate minerals can float relative to coexisting silicate liquids at high pressures due to the very high compressibilities of magmas, a finding with implications for the differentiation of large silicate planets; and the first to demonstrate a linear relationship between the extent of melting in Earth’s mantle and water content through studies of magmas that have erupted in the Mariana trough and in other subduction zone environments.

In addition, Stolper was recently elected a foreign member of the Academia Europaea (“The Academy of Europe”), a pan-European academy of humanities, letters, and sciences founded in 1988 to promote learning, education, and research. Members are drawn from the physical sciences and technology, biological sciences and medicine, mathematics, the letters and humanities, social and cognitive sciences, economics, and the law.

A member of Caltech’s faculty since 1979, Stolper was named the William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology in 1990. He served as chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences from 1994 to 2004. He was interim provost in 2004, and in 2007 he was named provost, the chief academic officer of the Institute.

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