In memoriam: AGU former president Peter Eagleson

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AGU mourns the passing of Peter (Pete) S. Eagleson, who led as the organization’s president from 1986-1988. He also served as president of AGU’s hydrology section from 1982-1984 and received AGU’s Robert E. Horton Medal in 1988 and the William Bowie Medal in 1994.

In addition to his service at AGU, Dr. Eagleson was a recognized world leader in hydrology. He was an emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught since 1952. Dr. Eagleson had a great impact on the geoscience community through both his service and his scientific contributions. He was a pioneer in the field of hydrology, working to expand the field’s scope to encompass both engineering applications with important societal value, and science investigations on the global water cycle, with broad and deep impacts on understanding how the Earth System works.

His textbook, Dynamic Hydrology, published in 1970, provided a radically new perspective on the movement and storage of water in the environment. It is a bold and different approach to hydrologic sciences and served as a catalyst for the redefinition of the field of hydrology as a rigorous and quantitative scientific field at the heart of climate and Earth system sciences. In a series of seven papers in Water Resources Research, he demonstrated the potential of this new thinking for solving some of the long-standing disciplinary and interdisciplinary challenges in the field.

Dr. Eagleson chaired the U.S. National Research Council Committee on Opportunities in Hydrologic Sciences, which produced a landmark report (known also as the “Blue Book”). This report was the impetus for establishing hydrologic sciences as a distinct field within the geosciences and for establishing the Hydrologic Sciences Program within the National Science Foundation.

Following his retirement from MIT, Dr. Eagleson continued producing inspiring new ideas. He published two books: Ecohydrology: Darwinian Expression of Vegetation Form and Function and the AGU-published Range and Richness of Vascular Land Plants: The Role of Variable Light that ushered in yet another transformation of the discipline by bridging the fields of hydrology and ecology and establishing the field of ecohydrology.

For his extraordinary achievements, Dr. Eagleson received essentially every major recognition for hydrologists. In addition to his AGU awards, these include the 1991 International Hydrology Prize from the International Association of Hydrologic Sciences (IAHS), election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1982 and the Stockholm Water Prize in 1997. To honor his long-lasting contributions to hydrology, the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, Inc. (CUAHSI) established in 2008 the Peter S. Eagleson Lecture in Hydrologic Sciences. Dr. Eagleson was the MIT Killian Award lecturer in 1992, the institute’s highest faculty honor.

While we mourn Dr. Eagleson’s passing, we know his legacies will endure. His contributions to AGU and our community are remembered with great appreciation.

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  1. Jeff Dozier

    Pete Eagleson was a fanatic fan of baseball. At one of the meetings of the Committee that produced the Blue Book, we opened with a moment of silence for the Boston Red Sox who had just lost the American League Championship to the Oakland Athletics.

  2. Ranjan S. Muttiah

    I never met Peter but have felt his influence throughout the field of Hydrology. RIP.
    Ranjan S. Muttiah, Sr PE, City of Fort Worth, Texas


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