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International geophysics award

11 August 2007

A retired Cardiff University Professor has become the first British citizen to be awarded the Harry Hess Medal by the American Geophysical Union for discoveries about the origin and evolution of the Earth’s crust.

Professor Michael O’Hara, a former Distinguished Research Professor at the University’s School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences is the seventeenth recipient of the Medal, which recognises outstanding achievements in the research of the constitution and evolution of Earth and other planets.

For more than 50 years Professor O’Hara has studied igneous rock formations on the Earth and Moon, as well as the terrestrial planets of Mercury and Mars. His findings are widely accepted as contributing towards a greater understanding of the way these planets work.

Commenting on the award, Professor O’Hara said: "It’s unexpected and extremely generous in spirit, because for over forty years I have opposed views espoused by much American-led scientific opinion."

Professor O’Hara spent ten years at Cardiff University, retiring in 2003. Speaking of his time at University, he said: "Cardiff provided me with an exceptional research opportunity through the Distinguished Research Professor programme which most academics would envy."

Head of the School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences Professor Dianne Edwards who worked with Professor O’Hara during his ten years at the University said: "All his friends and former colleagues throughout the country are delighted. Harry Hess was Professor of Geology at Princeton University and his work on sea-floor spreading led directly to the theory of plate-tectonics. Like Harry Hess, Mike never rested easily with conventional consensus science and continues to pose pressing questions. To have had Mike as a member of the School allowed some of us to stand on the shoulders of a giant."

The Harry Hess award recognises research carried out by Professor O’Hara during his time at Cardiff University, as well as the Carnegie Institution in Washington, and the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberystwyth and Sultan Qaboos. The award is based on career achievements, and a winner is selected by a panel appointed by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Professor O’Hara will be presented with the medal at the AGU’s Fall Meeting Honours Ceremony to be held in San Francisco in December 2007.