G. Brent Dalrymple '59 Receives National Medal of Science
G. Brent Dalrymple, a 1959 graduate of Occidental College and professor emeritus and former dean of Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious 2003 National Medal of Science for his work in the physical sciences.
Dalrymple and six other laureates received medals at a March 14 ceremony at the White House.
The presidential medal is the nation’s highest honor for researchers who make major impacts in field of science and engineering through career-long, groundbreaking achievements and on the individual disciplines for which the awards are given. The National Science Foundation administers the award, which was established by Congress in 1959.
Dalrymple’s work includes studies on the reversals of the earth’s magnetic field and plate tectonics, the origin of the Hawaiian Islands, the evolution of volcanoes and lunar geology. The U.S. Geological Survey credits Dalrymple and colleagues Richard Doell and Allan Cox with building the foundation for what became a revolution in the earth sciences – plate tectonics.
“It’s a nice recognition,” Dalrymple said from his home in Corvallis, Ore. “What we did is sometimes called the Rosetta stone of plate tectonics. These kinds of scientific revolutions don’t happen very often. In terms of importance to science, it was similar to what physics did around the turn of the century with the discovery of subatomic particles and how the atom worked, and the discovery of DNA in the ‘60s. It was a very similar kind of revolution.”
Dalrymple earned his doctorate in geology from UC Berkeley and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is former president of the American Geophysical Union. Dalrymple earned a geology degree – and received an honorary doctorate – at Occidental.
His last professional project was a book published in 2004 by Stanford University Press. “Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and Its Cosmic Surroundings” explores the evidence scientists have used to determine the age of the universe and describes the way research was conducted.
Dalrymple is living out his retirement in less scholarly pursuits, focusing instead on woodworking, golfing and flying.