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Jean-Paul Poirier

Jean-Paul Poirier
Jean-Paul Poirier

The 1995 Louis Néel Medal is awarded to Jean-Paul Poirier in recognition of his distinguished work in inferring the temperature, composition and dynamics of the Earth from fundamental laws of solid state physics of terrestrial materials.

Jean-Paul Poirier entered the geophysical community through the work on creep in oxides at the French Atomic Commission. He soon found ways to introduce knowledge from materials sciences to the understanding of problems of deformation in minerals and rocks that are at the physical core of solid state deformation of the solid Earth. He has examined slip systems in olivine, phase changes of mantle materials, transformational superplasticity, and creep measurements in minerals and rocks, among other related topics. In this connection, he wrote the standard work in this field, Creep of Crystals, subtitled High-Temperature deformation processes in metals, ceramics and minerals. This work is the starting point of connecting strength and deformation in minerals to the basic physics of these processes.

On the broader foundation of applying basic solid state physics, Jean-Paul Poirier has contributed to other topics such as transport properties in the core mantle composition in relation to elastic properties, melting of core material, use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in examining mineral microstructure, introducing the diamond anvil call to French experimental geophysics, and electrical conductivity of the deep mantle minerals. Again, this is only a partial list, but the breadth of his approach shows in the order of his influential books on geophysics, Introduction to the Physics of the Earth’s Interior. As for his first book, this one has become the gateway for introducing students – and other geophysicists – to the solid state physics of geological materials at the extremes of planetary temperatures and pressures. Along the way, Jean-Paul Poirier has trained a substantial number of the next generation of French geophysicists and ensured that they maintained his international outlook.

Another principal contribution has been his service to the geophysical community. Thus, Jean-Paul Poirier serves as head of the IASPEI Commission on Physical Properties of the Earth’s Interior, as an Editor of the Physics of Earth and Planetary Interiors, and as a member of the AGU Mineral Physics Committee.

Newsletter 55, 19, 1995.