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A Prize Response

by Chris Russell

June 2004

 

The American Geophysical Union awards the John Adam Fleming medal in honor of "original research
and technical leadership in geomagnetism, atmospheric electricity, aeronomy, space physics, and related
sciences." It is one of the highest honors of the AGU. The 2003 Fleming medal was awarded to
Professor Christopher T. Russell of the University of California at Los Angeles for his “unequaled record
of scientific accomplishment in space physics,” notably in the field of planetary magnetospheres
and their interactions with the solar wind. The citation for his award can be found at http://www.agu.org/
inside/awards/russell_ct.html. We have chosen to reproduce his response in STATUS because of his advocacy that more honors be awarded to women scientists.

I am very pleased to receive this award named for a fellow geomagnetician, John Adam Fleming, who was once very influential but is now somewhat less known. For those interested in his career, I refer you to an excellent biography written by Merle Tuve and published in the National Academy's Biographical Memoirs in 1967. Fleming was “an indefatigable worker and a prolific writer.” He served as General Secretary of AGU for a full solar magnetic cycle, or 22 years. In addition to geomagnetism, the Fleming
Medal recognizes work in atmospheric electricity, aeronomy, space physics, and related sciences. Awards, however, are often defined more by the recipients than any other factor. The 35 men who have received this award before me include some of the most brilliant I have ever met. They also include the only scientist who has ever hit me, but that story is better left for another time.

"I have many people to thank for helping me during my career, but none more than my mother,
who at 89 years of age is still a very bright woman. She, like myself, was strongly attracted to science, but her father would not allow a young girl to pursue such a career. She was directed to study to be a secretary. Fortunately times have changed, and last year in the United States more doctorates were awarded to women than men.

"We have many excellent female scientists in our profession, and I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best. Among these have been Marcia Neugebauer, Joan Feynman,
Margaret Kivelson, and Janet Luhmann. But where are names like these in the list of AGU
Fleming medalists? Where are the Carols, Nancys, Patricias, Michelles, and Peggys? It is time for AGU awards to become more inclusive. One way to begin this process is to rename some of the awards. For example, Marcia Neugebauer would be just as appropriate a role model for today's scientists as John Adam Fleming was for scientists in the 1960s.

"In closing, let me stress that I am very grateful for being selected for this award, but I would have also been quite happy to wait while some of my equally deserving colleagues were honored."

-C. T. Russell, University of California, Los Angeles

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