Leon Knopoff

Article excerpt

AMAN OF UNUSUALLY wide-ranging interests and talents, Leon Knopoffhad the rare distinction of being simultaneously a professor of physics, a professor of geophysics, and a research musicologist at UCLA. The only child of Max and Ray Knopoff, Leon was born in Los Angeles on 1 July 1925, and was the first of his extended family to attend college. He died at his home on 20 January 2011.

As an undergraduate he studied electrical engineering (B.S. cum laude, 1944), and obtained his Ph.D. in physics and mathematics (also cum laude) at the California Institute of Technology in 1949. In 1950 Louis Slichter recruited Knopoffto the Institute of Geophysics at UCLA, where he became professor of geophysics in 1957 and professor of both geophysics and physics in 1961. He was appointed research musicologist in the UCLA Institute of Ethnomusicology shortly after it was formed in 1960. Other appointments included faculty positions at Miami University of Ohio (1948-50) and Caltech (1962-63) as well as visiting academic appointments at Cambridge (three separate yearlong visits), Karlsruhe, Harvard, Santiago, Trieste, and Venice. He was awarded an NSF Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1960, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1976.

Knopoffwas elected as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (1962), a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1963), a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1964), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1965), and a member of the American Philosophical Society (1992). A true international scientist, he received the Emil Wiechert Medal of the Deutsche Geophysikalische Gesellschaft(1978), the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1979), the H. F. Reid Medal of the Seismological Society of America (1990)-thereby becoming an honorary member, the Golden Badge Award of the European Geophysical Society (2001), and a doctorate honoris causa from the Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg (2004). Leon was elected as a fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge (1986). He first visited China in the 1970s, and returned often to collaborate with Chinese colleagues. He was named the first honorary professor of the Institute of Geophysics of the China Earthquake Administration (2004).

Leon served as the director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at UCLA for fourteen years, from 1972 to 1986. Among other professional responsibilities, he was founding member and secretary general of the International Upper Mantle Project; founder and chair of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics Committee on Mathematical Geophysics; chair of the U.S. Upper Mantle Committee; chair of the U.S. Committee for the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior; and chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Seismology and Aftershocks, Atomic Energy Commission. Knopoffserved as editor of Non-Linear Processes in Geophysics and associate editor of Reviews of Geophysics and Space Physics and Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth.

His selfless cooperation was truly global, but nowhere was it more clearly demonstrated than at his own institution in his dedicated teaching of undergraduate and graduate students, his thirty-nine Ph.D. students, forty postdoctoral fellows, and academic colleagues from more than seventeen countries. Knopoffwas an inspiring teacher who excelled at simplifying complex topics and encouraging learning through his infectious animation and remarkable patience. It is not surprising that he won the "outstanding teacher award" in the UCLA physics department four times, which for him was a source of great pride. He was also honored as UCLA Faculty Research Lecturer in 1972.

Over the course of a long and extremely fruitful career, Leon authored or coauthored 232 scientific papers in refereed journals, as well as 134 other publications, including original research works in nonrefereed journals, book chapters, and other reports and reviews. …