The Leopold von Buch Medal is awarded annually, usually to a foreign scholar in recognition of outstanding scientific contributions and for special services to the geological sciences.
Wyllie received the medal "in recognition of his scientific research on the petrology of crystalline rocks, and also for his service in publicizing the importance of the geosciences for society."
Wyllie is an internationally known authority on the formation of igneous rocks—those created when molten material solidifies. His primary research covers experimental petrology of magmas and volatiles that erupt as lavas from volcanoes or form the granites of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Throughout his career, Wyllie has been a "global ambassador" for the geosciences. He served as chairman of the U.S. National Academy committee that published, in 1993, the first national survey of Earth sciences, Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Wyllie has given numerous international lectures on the impact of Earth sciences on society, including such subjects as resources (oil, minerals, and water supply), hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides), and global climatic change. He has been elected fellow or foreign member of national science academies in the United States, the United Kingdom (the Royal Society), Russia, China, and India (Delhi and Allahabad), and of Academia Europaea.
He has served as president of the Mineralogical Society of America, the International Mineralogical Association, and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics.
Wyllie has received numerous honors and awards throughout his career, including the 2001 Mineralogical Society of America's Roebling Medal, the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1982, and the Abraham-Gottlob-Werner Medaille of the German Mineralogical Society in 1987.
Wyllie joined Caltech in 1983 as chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. In 1987, Wyllie returned to teaching and research, then was appointed division academic officer in 1994. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 1999.
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