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In memory of Evgene Burov

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Stephan Mueller Medal Lecture by Evgene on 14 April 2015

Last Friday, 09 October 2015, our colleague and friend Professor Evgene Burov has passed away on his way to a meeting in Chile. The passing away of Evgene has come as a shock to our community

With his fine humour and infinite kindness, he was a great actor in our community, steering new ideas and new concepts, forming students, organising and building the community with workshops, task forces, editing journals and books. Evgene was also an active contributor to EGU's general assembly, convening many sessions over the years.

In April of this year, Evgene received the EGU Stephan Mueller Medal for his fundamental contributions to our understanding of the long-term rheological properties of the lithosphere and their role in the processes of continental rifting, sedimentary basin formation and mountain building. Evgene's passing is a great loss for our community and we will miss him deeply.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.

Find a special homepage in memory of Evgene Burov here.

Find a message from the Academy of Europe here.

Find a message from the International Lithosphere Program here: BurovObit-1.pdf (255.0 KB) .

Personal memories from our community members

Behind a discreet but humourous attitude, Evgueni Burov was not only a bright and creative scientist, always ready to fight for his ideas, but also a kind person and a reliable partner for his students and colleagues face to common scientific challenges. On various fronts over nearly 20 years, from pure science excitement to the daedalus of our academic world, I found extremely rewarding to work with Genia, opposing ideas, launching projects, driving students, writing papers, sitting in committees… always serious but always with fun. How to forget that face to a questioning about the “jelly sandwich” model of lithosphere rheology, which he judged unacceptable, he opposed counter arguments to the “crème brulée” model? No better synthesis of the talent and personality of Genia that this cocktail of hard science, fighting spirit and humour with a French touch… No doubt that his impressive scientific contribution will continue long to inspire earth scientists.

Prof. Jean-Pierre Brun
Géosciences Rennes
October 12, 2015


l’Ile d’Oleron, France, September 2015

Genia was a brilliant scientist, good friend and very nice and fun person. He was physicist by education and geoscientist-explorer by spirit. He had very peculiar sense of humor and basically was always joking even when speaking seriously. He was obviously one of great science pillars holding friendly atmosphere and exciting research within our very diverse and colorful international geodynamic community. He was always pioneering simultaneously several research directions developing new trends and inspiring new people. Genia deserved many more years of success and family happiness with his beloved Katya and Alexey and it really hurts to write “was” about him. We knew each other since ever and became friends a long time ago but started to cooperate on science only very recently. I was extremely lucky to have Genia for few months in Zurich with our remarkable coffee sessions on the roof terrace of Earth Science building where we discussed science and life while looking at Alps. And exciting scientific results were appearing almost magically - apparently without any major effort from our side. I was also extremely lucky to have few careless trips together with Genia in France and Switzerland with sunny weather and beautiful peaceful views. And this is how I will remember him – great scientist and great friend…

Prof. Taras Gerya
ETH Zurich
October 15, 2015

Genia 2005.JPG


Dear Genia

You have so suddenly left us that it is really difficult to believe it, impossible to accept that your wife Katia and your son Alexei will now have to live without you. I still vividly remember when you arrived in Paris to take your new position as professor at UPMC in 1999. I had no idea at this time how deeply you would change my perception of geodynamics. I was not really interested at that time in numerical models, many of them being much too far from my vision of geology as I see it in the field. With very few others you designed numerical experiments that do not oversimplify geological processes and you were not afraid by the complexity of geology. Nowadays, thanks to you, geologists can test the conceptual models they invent based on their observations and the models in turn change their understanding of tectonics. You have bridged in an unprecedented way the approaches of field geologists and modellers. We live a fantastic period of our science that sees the resolution of geophysics and numerical modelling getting closer than ever to that of geological observations. Geologists can now really talk to geophysicists and modellers as never before and you allowed this evolution. You and I did not always agree, far from it, but our discussions have always led to fruitful new paths of research and new exciting projects. The vision of geodynamics I defend today owes a lot to our collaboration. Apart from being an outstanding scientist you were such a nice companion, with a large culture and a great sense of humour. You were shy, passionate and strong-minded at the same time, a combination that makes you unforgettable. You have sadly left us but I have no doubt that your legacy will be continued by your students and colleagues. We will miss you, Genia.

Prof. Laurent Jolivet
Université d'Orléans / Membre de l'Institut Universitaire de France
October 17, 2015


Scrumping apricots in the Helvetic zone of the French Alps, 2009

I first met Evgenii at the Institute of Physics of the Earth in Moscow during the mid-80s. He had just started a Ph.D with Misha Kogan who I was collaborating with at the time on the marine gravity field. He was an impressive student with a strong background in Physics who, despite the lack of computing facilities, was making great strides in lithospheric mechanics. Unusually in pre-Gorbachev Russia, Misha and his group were active in promoting links with scientists in the West and so it was little surprise that once he graduated Evgenii would seek opportunities abroad. His first post-doctoral position, as I recall, was at GETECH, a gravity and magnetics consulting company in Leeds, UK, which he joined in 1991. He then moved to France, first as a post-doctoral fellow at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and then as a researcher at BGRM, the French Geological Survey. In 1999, he joined the University Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris as a Full Professor where he remained until his untimely death last week.

It was while at IPGP that Evgenii published his seminal paper (with Michel Diament) entitled “The effective elastic thickness (Te) of continental lithosphere: What does it really mean?” At the time, oceanic Te and its relationship to the age of the lithosphere was well established, but plots of continental Te against thermal age showed considerable scatter. This intrigued Evgenii and so he set about comparing continental Te observations to predictions based on crust and lithosphere composition, thickness, temperature structure and data from experimental rock mechanics. He showed that the observed Te could be explained by a vertically stratified multilayered rheology and that their bimodality could be caused by a weak lower crust which, on loading, decoupled the strong upper crust from an otherwise strong upper mantle. He went on to demonstrate that Te reflected the integrated strength of the lithosphere, that Te could be calculated from an experimentally derived yield strength envelope when more than one competent layer was present, and that Te could be mapped over large continental regions using the local thermal, crustal and rheological structure of the lithosphere.

Evgenii then published a series of papers that used the finite element method to model an eclectic mix of geological processes, including erosion, sedimentary basin formation, cratonization, rifting, ophiolite obduction and the exhumation of ultra-high pressure rocks. His models were always carefully constructed and he gave special consideration to the initial set-up conditions and the many input parameters. His willingness to work side by side with geologists (which included his participation in the occasional field trip to the Alps!) ensured that his models were always plausible and of significance to geophysicists, tectonicists and structural geologists alike.

It was my good fortune to have worked closely with Evgenii and to have co-authored two papers with him.  The first, in 2003, was an attempt to clarify the meaning of oceanic Te by explaining the difference between the elastic and seismic thickness of the lithosphere and exactly how surface loads such as oceanic islands and seamounts were supported by the lithosphere. The second, in 2006, was an attempt to address the controversy that was emerging then on whether the long-term strength of the lithosphere resided mainly in the upper crust or the upper mantle. The paper considered the response to loading of two end-member rheological models: the so-called ‘jelly sandwich’ and ‘crème brûlée’ models. The ‘jelly sandwich’ model, in which a weak lower crust is sandwiched between a strong upper crust and upper mantle, had been in use for sometime (probably since the 80s). The ‘crème brûlée’ model, in which only the upper crust is strong, was Evgenii’s idea and it came to him while we were talking science and sipping coffee and eating desert in one of his favourite bistros in Paris.

Evgenii was a kind, generous and humorous man and an excellent host to the many scientists from abroad who visited his laboratory over the years. During my visits he took great pleasure in taking me to the family-run restaurants on Rue Jussieu and in showing me around the spectacular gardens and chateaus in and around Paris. When he teased me about my Britishness, my distaste of expresso coffee and my well-done steak - I would respond that he was becoming more and more French by the day. He held his adopted country in great esteem, I think, and he was delighted when Eurostar finally changed the name of its terminus in London from Waterloo to Kings Cross–St. Pancras. He enjoyed discussing local and national politics and always maintained an interesting viewpoint on East-West relations. He was in many ways a scientists scientist. He had little time for administration and was happiest when doing research and using his quantitative skills to address important geological problems. He was a tireless organizer of special sessions at AGU and EGU, a sought after speaker at international meetings and a respected contributor to review articles and reference books.

His death at the relatively young age of just 52 years has been a shock to us all. He was in his prime as a scientist and had so much more to offer.  It is a tragedy that we have lost someone so special. His legacy are his papers, which I am sure will be read over and over again by students in the years to come, and, more importantly, his beloved family, Katia and Alexei, who survive him.

Prof. Tony Watts
University of Oxford
November 04, 2015


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