The 2010 Augustus Love Medal is awarded to Philip England for his outstanding contributions to the field of large-scale continental deformation.
Philip England is best known – and justly so – for his elegantly simple numerical models of tectonics and mountain building that he has applied principally to the Tibetan Plateau. Idealizing the lithosphere as a thin viscous sheet keeps the model conceptually simple and provides a computationally tractable means of quantifying the forces driving and resisting deformation and relating them to observed surface strain. An important result of these studies is in showing the importance of internal buoyancy forces in driving continental deformation, a critical guidepost for all subsequent work in the field. Following his early work with Dan McKenzie he has elaborated extensively on this model through joint work with Greg Houseman, Peter Molnar and his own graduate students. These studies explored the consequences of realistic complexity in the models and applied the viscous sheet formalism to strike-slip and extensional tectonics.
Philip England’s early career work on regional metamorphism associated with orogenic crustal thickening remains among his most highly cited research. In two brilliant papers co-authored with Alan Thompson, England modeled the thermal consequences of orogenic thickening, predicted the pressure-temperature-time (PTt) paths of crustal rocks, and inferred the resulting metamorphic mineral assemblages. Like all of England’s work this modeling is closely tied to observational constraints – in this case from metamorphic petrology – and has testable consequences.
Philip England’s work has the goal of seeking simple physical understanding of fundamental processes, where “understanding” means finding simple rules that can be expressed by simple mathematics and comprehended by all scientists. In this goal he has succeeded!