This year the Geological Society of London has awarded its Sue Tyler Friedman Medal to Professor Henry (Hank) Frankel of the Department of Philosophy,UniversityofMissouri–Kansas City,USA.  The award was established by Gerry Friedman in 1987 by a gift of the Northeastern Science Foundation Inc. of Troy,New York, and dedicated to his wife Sue Tyler Friedman.  The award is made annually, or at such intervals as the GSL Council may determine, in recognition of distinguished contributions to the recording of the history of geology.

Henry Frankel’s major interest concerns the evolution and resolution of scientific controversies.  During the late 1970s, he became interested in the continental drift controversy and the plate tectonics revolution while teaching a course on conceptual issues in science.  The controversy provided him with an example of a recent and major scientific revolution by which to test philosophical accounts of scientific growth and change.

Last year saw the publication by Cambridge University Press of his four-volume treatise The Continental Drift Controversy which is “the first complete history of the origin, debate and gradual acceptance of this revolutionary explanation of the structure and motion of the Earth’s outer surface. Based on extensive interviews, archival papers, and original works, Frankel weaves together the lives and work of the scientists involved, producing an accessible narrative for scientists and non-scientists alike”.  According to Dan MacKenzie of theUniversity ofCambridge, it is the completeness of this monumental work that makes it so impressive; “Frankel has gone back to the original sources and papers to ensure complete understanding of the scientific issues involved”.  This year’s GSL awards ceremony takes place at Burlington House on 5th June.

 

Sources: Cambridge University Press, and Dept of Philosophy University of Missouri- Kansas City websites.