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A Tribute to Dr. Luna B. Leopold - Retired USGS Chief Hydrologist

Picture of Luna Leopold.

Luna B. Leopold, former USGS Chief Hydrologist and a pioneer in geomorphology, died February 23, at the age of 90.

A son of Aldo Leopold, one of the early leaders of the movement to preserve the American wilderness, Leopold was best known as the "intellectual father" of geomorphology. Leopoldīs greatest impact on the earth sciences began with his 1950 publication "The Hydraulic Geometry of Stream Channels," a paper that provided a basis for observing rivers throughout the world. With this paper, Leopold initiated a new era in the study of rivers, one that involved quantitative approaches that spread to the broader field of geomorphology - the study of the evolution and configuration of landforms. His research consistently related meteorology and climatology to landscape change.

During his 10 years as Chief Hydrologist, Leopold transformed the USGS Water Resources Division into the nationīs premier agency for water research. From the outset his work was creative, pioneering and multidisciplinary. In essence, Luna Leopold shaped the water resources programs of the USGS as they are known today. He created the concept of having a water resources office in every state and he created the National Research Program ensuring that operational and research activities complemented each other. He also brought about a unification of the three sub-disciplines in water; surface water, ground water, and water quality.

His scientific work was featured in numerous books and some 200 scientific articles. His book "Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology," co-authored with M. Gordon Wolman and John P. Miller, helped establish geomorphology as a physical science as well as a historical one.

Leopold was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 8, 1915. He obtained a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a M.S. degree in physics and meteorology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University

Leopold was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of many awards including The National Medal of Science, the Department of Interiorīs Distinguished Service Medal, the National Academy of Scienceīs Warren Prize, the American Geophysical Unionīs Robert E. Horton Medal, American Geological Institutes Ian Campbell Medal and the Geological Society of Americaīs Penrose Medal. He was a Fellow in the Geological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, California Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, American Philosophical Society, and several other professional scientific societies.

He mentored many prominent scientists and shared his creative intellect and passionate commitment to science and society, inspiring generations of colleagues and students to use their talents both to the pursuit of science and to its application to society.

 

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