The 2006 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science awarded to Luna B. Leopold and M. Gordon Wolman. Journal of the Franklin Institute
Starting in the 1950s Luna B. Leopold and M. Gordon Wolman transformed the field of geomorphology with quantitative and process-orientated studies designed to understand landscape adjustments to temporal and spatial changes in sediment supply and streamflow. By integrating fundamental science with keen observations they developed the first comprehensive and mechanistic understanding of rivers and floodplains. Their research has not only provided a quantitative framework for understanding landscape evolution, it is a cornerstone of modern water resource management and environmental impact analysis. Specific research areas included quantifying: (1) the “hydraulic geometry” of rivers; (2) the morphology and processes of rivers; (3) channel networks and the longitudinal profiles of rivers; (4) processes controlling floodplain formation; (5) the magnitude and frequency of geomorphic processes; and (6) the cycle of sedimentation in response to urban development. Much of this research was published in seven co-authored articles and in a widely used 1964 book that they co-authored with John Miller, Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology. While their contributions are synergistically linked and stem from their co-authored papers, their individual contributions are distinct and extend over 50 years. For these accomplishments, Luna Leopold and M. Gordon Wolman were awarded the 2006 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science.
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