Prof. Jacob Bear, Recipient of the 2010 Robert E. Horton Medal

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Prof. Jacob Bear, Recipient of the 2010 Robert E. Horton Medal

It is a pleasure and an honor to introduce Jacob Bear, Professor Emeritus at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, as the 2010 Robert E. Horton medalist. Jacob has had a prime influence on the hydrological sciences, and on virtually every scientist who has studied hydrogeology during the last 40 years.

Jacob Bear lists a lifetime of unique accomplishments, and his influence on the field is unparalleled. Jacob has made pioneering, diverse contributions to basic and applied scientific aspects of groundwater hydrology. He began his career in the 1960s, being acutely concerned by the paucity of tools for quantitative modeling, and by the huge gaps in fundamental understanding of the physics of flow and transport in porous media. Jacob has devoted his career to remedying this situation, by working to combine basic physical principles, mathematical analysis, and practical application to produce a coherent and systematic methodology for formulating and quantifying problems in subsurface hydrology. The impact of Jacob’s work has so significantly influenced the field, in so many ways, that it is difficult to enumerate them.


Jacob Bear has had an immeasurable impact through his books, which remain key reference sources to this day. His first book in 1968, with Irmai and Zaslavsky, introduced a comprehensive approach based on mathematical modeling, and included among many subjects both saturated and unsaturated (multiphase) flow, and solute transport in porous media. This was the beginning of Jacob’s implementation of his concept of “transport phenomena in porous media”, as opposed to “movement of water in aquifers”. Indeed, in 1967 Jacob organized the first symposium on the “Fundamentals of Transport Phenomena in Porous Media”, which brought together scientists from many disciplines – hydrologists, soil physicists, reservoir engineers, etc. – who had not been communicating previously. As an outgrowth, Jacob’s later books, particularly the 1972 “Dynamics of Fluids in Porous Media” volume (which has since been re-issued by Dover, and which has more than 8,000 citations), have had a huge impact on the field, and virtually every student and researcher in hydrogeology has studied from it or referred to it on some occasion. This book has changed both theory and practice, on a global level. Jacob has also mentored a long list of outstanding young researchers and practicing engineers throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

Jacob has made benchmark research contributions, notably to the theory of volume averaging, to quantification of dispersion in solute transport, and to modeling of sea water intrusion (combined with management of coastal aquifers). This latter work dictated management of the coastal aquifer of Israel from the early 1960’s, and has led to practical improvements in exploitation of coastal aquifers around the world.

As a consequence, Jacob has fundamentally influenced the thinking of at least two complete generations of hydrologists. Jacob’s conceptual thinking and quantitative approaches have revolutionized the field of groundwater hydrology. Quite simply, Jacob Bear is “a legend in his own time”. Jacob Bear is a credit to the American Geophysical Union, richly deserving of this highest distinction for outstanding contributions to the geophysical aspects of hydrology.

BRIAN BERKOWITZ, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel