Walter Alvarez


Walter Alvarez

:"For his grandfather, the American doctor, see Walter C. Alvarez."Walter Alvarez (born 1940), son of Nobel Prize winning physicist Luis Alvarez, is a professor in the Earth and Planetary Science department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Born in Berkeley, California, he earned his B.A. in geology in 1962 from Carleton College in Minnesota and Ph.D. in geology from Princeton University in 1967.

His grandfather is the famed physician Walter C. Alvarez and his great-grandfather Luis F. Alvarez, who worked as a doctor in Hawaii, developed a method for the better diagnosis of macular leprosy. His great-aunt Mabel Alvarez was a noted California artist and oil painter.

He worked for American Overseas Petroleum Limited in The Netherlands, and in Libya at the time of Colonel Gadaffi’s revolution. Having developed a side interest in archaeological geology, he left the oil company and spent some time in Italy, studying the Roman volcanics and their influence on patterns of settlement in early Roman times.

Alvarez then moved to Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University, and began studying the Mediterranean tectonics in the light of the new theory of plate tectonics. His work on tectonic paleomagnetism in Italy led to a study of the geomagnetic reversals recorded in Italian deep-sea limestones, and he and his colleagues were able to date the reversals for an interval of more than 100 million years of Earth history.

Alvarez and his father Luis W. Alvarez are most widely known for their discovery (with Frank Asaro and Helen Michel) that a clay layer occurring right at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary was highly enriched in the element iridium. Since iridium enrichment is common in asteroids, but very uncommon on the Earth, they further postulated that the layer had been created by the impact of a large asteroid with the Earth and that this impact event was the likely cause of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event.

This iridium enrichment has now been observed in many other sites around the world. And further, the very large Chicxulub crater was identified and is now regarded as the definitive evidence of a large impact. Consequently, a majority of scientists now accept the impact scenario as the most likely cause for the K-T extinction event which occurred 65 million years ago and eliminated 85% of all species, including all of the dinosaurs. His book, "T. Rex and the Crater of Doom", details the discovery of the K-T extinction event.

In addition to his interest in extinction events and impacts, Alvarez has contributed to the understanding of Mediterranean tectonics, Roman geology and archeology, and the establishment of magnetostratigraphic correlations.

Alvarez is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the prestigious 2006 Nevada Medal and accompanying $20,000 honorarium, and the Penrose Medal, the Geological Society of America’s highest award. In 2005, he received the doctorate "Honoris Causa" in Geological Sciences from the University of Siena, Italy.

Further reading

*"T. Rex and the Crater of Doom" by Walter Alvarez ISBN 0-375-70210-5
*"The Mountains of Saint Francis: The Geologic Events that Shaped Our Earth" by Walter Alvarez (W. W. Norton, December 2008)

External links

* [http://eps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/faculty.cgi?name=alvarez Walter Alvarez's Berkeley homepage]


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  • Walter Alvarez — (* 1940 in Berkeley, Kalifornien), ist ein Geologie Professor des Earth and Planetary Science department (Fakultät für Erd und Planetenwissenschaften) der University of California, Berkeley. Mit der zusammen mit seinem Vater entwickelten Theorie… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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