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  • 2013 Harry H. Hess Medal

As Harry Hess recognized over 50 years ago, mantle melting is the fundamental motor for planetary evolution and differentiation. Melting generates the major divisions of crust mantle and core. The distribution of chemical elements between solids, melts, and gaseous phases is fundamental to understanding these differentiation processes. Bernie Wood, together with Jon Blundy, has combined experimental petrology and physicochemical theory to revolutionize the understanding of the distribution of trace elements between melts and solids in the Earth. Knowledge of these distribution laws allows the reconstruction of the source compositions of the melts (deep in Earth's interior) from their abundances in volcanic rocks. Bernie's theoretical treatment relates the elastic strain of the lattice caused by the substitution of a trace element in a crystal to the ionic radius and charge of this element. This theory, and its experimental calibrations, brought order to a literature of badly scattered, rather chaotic experimental data that allowed no satisfactory quantitative modeling of melting processes in the mantle.