"Research conducted and inspired by Walter Alvarez has changed the way we view the history of the Earth," says the Vetlesen Prize committee's citation. "For more than a century the dominant view of how Earth evolved was one of 'uniformitarianism"a slow, gentle change caused by processes observable today. [His] work proved that major catastrophic events can shape the evolution of our planet."
G. Michael Purdy, director of Lamont-Doherty, said: "Alvarez's research showed that life on earth is affected by how our planet interacts with the cosmos. He not only moved the study of extraterrestrial impacts from science fiction into the mainstream; he forever changed the way we view our world and its evolution."
With modern catastrophismincluding a growing wariness of potential dangers from future cosmic collisions--now firmly embedded in books, movies and museum exhibits, the prize committee said that Alvarez has succeeded in "bridging the scientific world and that of popular culture."
The Vetlesen Prize is given "for scientific achievement resulting in a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history, or its relations to the universe." It was established in 1959 by the trustees of G. Unger Vetlesen, a Norwegian
|Contact: Kevin Krajick|
The Earth Institute at Columbia University