2021 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell

Presented to Marcia McNutt

Marcia McNutt

Marcia McNutt
National Academy of Sciences


Citation by The Ian Campbell 2021 Nominating Committee

Dr. McNutt’s contributions to the geosciences have been exceptional over a long and productive professional career, beginning with her post-Ph.D. position as a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. In 1982, she became an assistant professor of geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was appointed in 1988 as Griswold Professor of Geophysics at MIT. Dr. McNutt participated in 15 major oceanographic expeditions and served as chief scientist on more than half of these expeditions. In addition to her outstanding oceanographic and plate tectonics research and leadership, Dr. McNutt has served as the head of six major professional science and geoscience organizations, including serving as the president of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. McNutt was the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey for four years, and she is the current president of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States’ premier science organization which advises the nation on issues related to science and technology. In these major leadership roles, Dr. McNutt has been a very effective advocate of the geosciences and the important role that geoscientists play in addressing many societally relevant problems.


Response by Marcia McNutt

I am honored to join the list of distinguished geoscientists who have been awarded this AGI medal and thrilled that my contributions might be worthy of being linked to Ian Campbell’s legacy. Although in the past decade my responsibilities have broadened beyond the geosciences, this dilution in no way dampened my deep love and advocacy for studies of Earth in all of her dimensions. I recall years ago when I was being interviewed for a prominent position, one member of the search committee asked me, “Why are so many of our finalists geoscientists?” I responded that studies in the geosciences promote the broad systems-level thinking so critical to any complex problem solving. I added that geoscientists don’t measure time in the currency of a grant duration or even a lifetime, but instead take the long view. Furthermore, because few areas of the geosciences allow for the definitive experiment, geoscientists must make sense of incomplete data. I believe that this world would be a better place with geoscientists in charge. Thank you to all of you for everything you do to protect the future of humankind on the only planet we know to harbor life, and the only home we have ever known.