Geomagnetism and paleomagnetism 1979–1983



My function, in writing these notes, is to bring you up to date in Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism, in as painless a manner as possible—without tears, as the French language texts for tourists used to promise. In writing this account of progress in the past quadrennium, I must first acknowledge that it is a personal and subjective viewpoint;; another reporter would surely emphasize other developments. Yet, there is some virture in writing of things, about which one knows something, so I leave to future reporters the task of redresssing the balance in matters covered.

At the outset, one very sad event must be recorded. On April 3, 1981, Sir Edward Bullard died. His published work alone marks him as one of the leaders of geomagnetism in our times. Yet his contribution was much greater; many an American geophysicist, as well as a whole generation of British colleagues, have felt the benefit of his perceptive advice on their research. To those who saw him in the last few months of his life, his courage in the face of his illness was a remarkable example of fortitude. It is by now well known that the definitive paper, which he wrote with Malin, on secular variation at London, was only completed immediately before his death. The transmittal letter had been typed, but death prevented him from signing it. Bullard returned in this final paper to a topic to which he had contributed much. In it, he notes the role of Halley, who first described the phenomenon of westward drift, to which Bullard gave a new numerical precision, two and a half centuries later. I seem to remember Bullard saying in a lecture years ago that, while the Newtons of this world seem other than mortal, Halley was a scientist whose life and acheivements could encourage one's own efforts. Bullard, like Halley, inspires and encourages us.