Kevin C. A. Burke
The 2014 Arthur Holmes Medal & Honorary Membership is awarded to Kevin C. A. Burke for fundamental contributions to the fields of tectonics and evolution of the Earth on a global scale, including recognition of the Wilson cycle, mapping and interpretation of suture zones and continental aulocogens as failed rift systems related to continental break-up.
Kevin Burke coined the term Wilson Cycle for the succession of continental rifting, subsidence and ocean opening, initiation of subduction and ocean closure, and eventual continent-continent collision. Burke quickly recognised that the continents would hold the record of plate interaction in deep time and in the early 1970s, in conjunction with John Dewey, he wrote a series of papers that fundamentally changed the way we think about the formation of continental lithosphere, the Precambrian in particular
Burke’s career started in Africa in 1953, and since then he has developed an understanding of African geology that spans the entire record of Earth’s history. It was here that he developed concepts about rift structures and their relation to continental break-up, initiating the Wilson Cycle. From this work came his critical papers on aulacogens and their relation to plume-generated rifting within continents, a contribution that has had lasting impact in the field of plate tectonics. More recently, Burke has made fundamental contributions to the relationships between African tectonics and young geomorphology.
Kevin Burke and Arthur Holmes share a remarkable number of features and accomplishments. Both men were born and educated in England, developed a passion for and made outstanding contributions to the geology of Africa, achieved worldwide notoriety for global-scale geological processes, especially plate tectonics, and became prominent university professors with outstanding scientific intuition. Accordingly, Kevin Burke is a most worthy recipient of the Arthur Holmes Medal.
Video of the Arthur Holmes Medal Lecture given at the EGU General Assembly 2014.