GSA Medals & Awards

GSA Public Service Award

Robert D. Ballard
Robert D. Ballard
Founder and Chief Scientist
JASON Foundation for Education

[ view response ]

[ Back to Past Medalists ]

Presented to Robert D. Ballard

 Citation by Diana Lee Crew

Dr. Robert Ballard is an award-winning deep-sea explorer who is best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic. Born June 30, 1942, in Wichita, Kansas, Robert D. Ballard grew up in San Diego, California. He earned a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, where he is currently a full-time faculty member. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, where he spearheaded the development of manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles for marine research. While at WHOI he founded the Deep Submergence Laboratory. In 1997 he created the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Connecticut where he is President.

Throughout his career Ballard has conducted more than a hundred deep-sea expeditions, using both manned and unmanned vehicles. Beginning in 1973, Ballard participated in his first international expedition, Project FAMOUS (the French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Study). This was the first manned exploration of the Mid-Ocean Ridge which helped to confirm the newly emerging theory of Plate Tectonics and won wide acclaim within the oceanographic community. In 1977, Ballard was Co-Chief Scientist of the Galapagos Rift expedition that discovered hydrothermal vents and their exotic ecosystems based on "chemosythesis." By 1979, Ballard was scientist in charge of the ANGUS exploration program on the East Pacific Rise that discovered the first "Black Smokers," a discovery that helped for the first time to explain the chemistry of the world's oceans.

In 1989, Dr. Ballard created the JASON Foundation, an educational program designed to inspire in students a lifelong passion to pursue learning in science, math and technology through exploration and discovery. Ballard would later develop telecommunications technology to create "telepresence" for his JASON Project, which today serves over 1.4 million students and 36,000 teachers annually in the US, and abroad in countries like Mexico, bermuda, Panama and Australia.The Project allows students in grades 5-8 children to accompany him from afar on undersea and above ground scientific explorations around the globe. This great science experiment is now helping to reform science education around the country by offerieng real world experiences to children in their classrooms. These students are involved, and engaged in inquiry and we hope to see many more students entering the world of science as careers.

Dr. Ballard has 13 honorary degrees and 6 military awards; he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a commander for 30 years. In 1996, he received the National Geographic Society's prestigious Hubbard Medal for "extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world's oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science." In 2003, he received the National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published 18 books, numerous scientific papers and a dozen articles in National Geographic magazine. He is a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence.

 top 2004 GSA Public Service Award - Response by Robert D. Ballard

I want to thank the Geological Society of America and in particular its Awards Committee for honoring me tonight with this Public Service Award. I have been fortunate to receive other awards in the past but this one is particularly important to me since it comes from my geological colleagues. I am sorry I can not be here tonight as I am committed to an educational outreach effort that seeks to interest young people in science and technology. I also recognize that this award is not only for me but my entire team at the JASON Foundation for Education. For the last 15 years, that team has labored hard in the field to bring excitement of field research to more than 7 million students across our country and around the world as we work to create the next generation of geologists. Once again, many thanks for this wonderful award.