The 2012 Jean Baptiste Lamarck Medal is awarded to Emiliano Mutti for his internationally acclaimed research in clastic sedimentology, especially his ground-breaking detailed field-based models of turbidite systems, their petroleum reservoir characterisation, and their relationship to fluvio-deltaic systems.
Emiliano Mutti has been a leader in his field of siliciclastic sedimentology field for almost four decades and is a scientist of great distinction. He has an outstanding international reputation for his contributions to the understanding of deep-water sands, both in terms of processes of transport and deposition, and for the development of depositional models. He is a very skilled communicator and is an inspiring teacher. Modern work on deep-water sands and associated gravity flow deposits, commonly termed turbidite systems, was heralded by the classic paper of Emiliano Mutti and Franco Ricchi Lucchi in 1972. This, and much subsequent work by Mutti, his colleagues and students, was based on detailed field studies, field mapping, measurement of sections and their correlation, principally in the Italian Apennines, Spanish Pyrenees and Greece. Mutti’s later study of deep-water clastics on present-day continental margins by reflection seismic, led to comprehensive models of clastic sedimentary systems that became the first predictive models for subsurface geologists. Mutti’s turbidite system model has proved to be tremendously successful over the last 40 years, with many modifications being published by himself and by others. Much to his credit, it is characteristic of Mutti that although he defends his ideas fiercely, he has been the first to revise them when new data has been collected that do not fit his original model. Not only the model, but the methodology of how the model was constructed, is today widely used. Petroleum exploration companies have applied his model with great success. In recent years, Emiliano has become increasingly interested in fluvio-deltaic sedimentation, especially in tectonically active regions, and has produced general models, commonly on a sequence stratigraphic basis, incorporating fluvial, deltaic and turbidite systems. Not only has he been the leading turbidite worker for nearly four decades, but his ideas and concepts have had a true renaissance in recent years, as petroleum exploration has focused on deep-water plays in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the West African and Brazilian continental margins. Mutti was born in 1933. He received his MSc from the University of Milano in 1959, and remained there as assistant professor from 1960–1965. He moved to become a research geologist with Esso Production Research from 1965–1969, but returned to academia in 1969, first as associate professor and later as full professor at the University of Torino. He obtained his PhD in 1971. From 1982 until his retirement in 2007 he was a professor at the University of Parma. Mutti has demonstrated his ideas on countless excursions for academic and oil company geologists, with great enthusiasm and Latin temper. He has published around 100 research articles, many in the form of thick and comprehensive field guides where there were no constraints on numbers of figures or pages. Mutti’s love for photography is manifest in his big, beautiful and colourful book on turbidite sandstones published by AGIP. The excellent figures in this book continue to serve as the basis for process interpretation, both in university classes and in courses on deep-water sedimentation for petroleum companies. The originality and impact of Mutti’s work has been recognised by the numerous awards that he has received from learned societies, including the IAS, EAGE, SEPM and the Geological Society of London. Mutti has been visiting lecturer at a large number of universities and oil companies all over the world. Last, but not least, he has been a highly respected teacher and supervisor for a long list of students.