Stolper, Edward M. (earth scientist)

(1952- ) American Petrologist, Geochemist

When a volcano erupts, a huge amount of gas is released into the atmosphere in addition to the lava and ash. The gas is dominantly water but also carbon dioxide, certain sulfur compounds, and other minor gases. Before the eruption, this gas was contained within the liquid magma similar to carbon dioxide being held in soda. How do these gases interact with the floating unconnected atoms intent on bonding together to form minerals? How do they interact with the newly formed minerals? These are two of the complex questions that Edward Stolper uniquely addresses in his experimental and theoretical research. In simple terms, he provides an unconventional yet brilliant view of the interaction of fluids, melts, and solids in petrogenesis (the making of rock). The experimental results model the processes in a magma chamber and allow him to develop techniques to predict the content and participation of these gases in the crystallization of minerals even after the rock has hardened and all of the gases have escaped. This research allows him to understand the radical geologic processes that occur when a volcano erupts and the complex relations of the solid and liquid components up to that point. Stolper also investigates how different isotopes of elements are divided among the crystallizing minerals and melt in a magma chamber. These experimental and theoretical studies are then applied to real areas for testing. He has investigated magmatic systems in the Marianas, western Pacific, several mid-ocean ridges, Crater Lake in Oregon, Mono Craters in California, and Kilauea in Hawaii. Several of his papers include, “The Speciation of Water in Silicate Melts,” and “Theoretical Petrology.”

Stolper has also had a long-standing interest in meteorites and lunar samples. He has shown how the different types of achondritic meteorites are formed and even proposed some new types of meteorites. Because meteorites represent the most primitive type of planetary material, Stolper built models for the development of planets with meteorites as a starting point. He developed a chemical model for the differentiation of the Earth into its shells. Not only is there gravitational control on the layering that appears purely based upon density, but also chemical control. This evolving unorthodox model is guided by his experimental research and provides a new look at the chemical evolution of the planet.

Edward Stolper was born on December 16, 1952, in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University, Massachusetts, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in geological sciences, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in 1974. He was married in 1973 and would have two children. He earned a master of philosophy degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in geology in 1976 before returning to Harvard University for the remainder of his graduate career. He earned a Ph.D. in geological sciences in 1979. Stolper joined the faculty at California Institute of Technology in 1979 and remains there as of 2002. He has been the William E. Leonhard Professor of geology since 1990 and the chair of the department since 1994. During this time, he was a Bateman Visiting Scholar at Yale University, Connecticut (1988), and a Miller Visiting Research Professor at the University of California at Berkeley (1990).

Edward Stolper has published some 133 articles in international journals and professional volumes. The truly impressive part of this productivity is the benchmark nature of the articles and the quality of the journals in which they appear. An amazing 13 papers appear in the prestigious journals Science and Nature. His collaborators are the top researchers in the world in their respective disciplines. Stolper’s research has been well recognized by the profession as demonstrated by his numerous honors and awards. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received a Marshall Scholarship and a Nininger Meteorite Award while still in graduate school. He was awarded the Newcomb Cleveland Prize by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1984, the F.W. Clarke Medal by the Geochemical Society in 1985, the James B. Macelwane Award by the American Geophysical Union and the Arthur Holmes Medal by the European Union of Geosciences 1997. He was also named a Geochemistry Fellow by the Geochemi-cal Society and the European Association for Geochemistry in 1997.

Edward Stolper has performed significant service to the profession in too great abundance to list here.

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