Neal R. Iverson

Neal R. Iverson
Iowa State University

2017 Arthur L. Day Medal

Presented to Neal R. Iverson

Citation by Peter L. Moore

It is my great pleasure to introduce Dr. Neal Iverson as the 2017 recipient of the Arthur L. Day Medal. Neal is an exemplary scientist whose application of physics to glacial geology, glaciology and geomorphology has been, and continues to be, transformative. Much of his work focuses on the physical interactions between glaciers and their substrates, often with the dual objectives of better understanding the behavior of modern glaciers and the deposits and landforms that ancient glaciers have left behind. Neal’s approach to addressing these problems has included insightful theory and ambitious field measurements, but he is unique in his extensive use of experimentation to uncover the underlying physical processes. Colleagues consider Neal’s experimental findings among the most rigorous and reliable in the discipline, laying a solid foundation for subsequent studies in many areas of the geosciences. Please join me in congratulating Neal Iverson for this great honor.

2017 Day Medal — Response by Neal R. Iverson

I am deeply honored to be receiving the Day Medal and feel very lucky to be here. I was lucky to stumble into glaciology and glacial geomorphology, motivated as an undergraduate by only a vague sense that I liked physics more than chemistry and mountains more than cornfields. Since that time, as glaciers have shrunk, interest in them has greatly expanded and the mysterious processes at their beds have been transformed—as sea level rises—from academic curiosities to societal concerns.

More out of luck than shrewdness, I found myself as a graduate student being guided by the work of two exceptional geomorphologists: Roger Hooke, my advisor at the University of Minnesota who, by innovatively combining laboratory experiments, field observations, and theory across uncommonly diverse subjects and through his meticulous attention to clear, unadorned writing, set an inspirational example; and Bernard Hallet, whose early work cleverly wedding glacier sliding theory to processes of bedrock erosion peaked my interest in testing hypotheses experimentally. Later as a postdoc trying to understand basal slip of glaciers on till beds, I benefited from aspiring to the incredibly high standard set by Garry Clarke, who seemed to shift effortlessly between startlingly creative empiricism and theory. I have also had the unusual good fortune of having a brother, Richard, at the U.S. Geological Survey in a related field—landslide dynamics—with whom to hash out ideas and share frustrations in discussions that I greatly value for their candor and catharsis.

Although we learn from our failures rather than from recognition, it nevertheless reminds us of something important: that our good luck includes having colleagues who are gracious, generous people. I am much indebted to my talented co-worker at Iowa State, Peter Moore, who did the hard work of executing the nomination, to my former department chairman, Bill Simpkins, who instigated it, to the scientists I highly admire who wrote letters for it on my behalf, and to our young geoscience faculty at Iowa State who make working in our department a pleasure.

I am profoundly grateful to GSA for this honor, and I share it with my past students and postdocs, who have enriched me with their dedication and friendship. Finally, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to my most dependable collaborator, Kathy, for her love and patient support, and to our children, Joe and Ellen, for the joy they bring us every day.