Franklin Laureate Database
Luna B. Leopold, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
Laureate Video (18.9M)
Subject: Earth Science
Award: Benjamin Franklin
Citation: The 2006 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth & Environmental Science is awarded to Luna Leopold and M. Gordon Wolman for advancing our understanding of how natural and human activities influence landscapes, especially for the first comprehensive explanation of why rivers have different forms and how floodplains develop. Their contributions form the basis of modern water resource management and environmental assessment.
Engineer, meteorologist, geologist, and environmentalist, Leopold is the son of Aldo Leopold--considered by many as the father of wildlife management and the U.S. wilderness system. After earning a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1936, Leopold worked with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in New Mexico until 1940, when he began a six-year stint working with the U.S. Army Weather Service in the Army Air Corps. In 1944 he earned an M.S. in physics-meteorology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Between 1946 and 1950, he was chief meteorologist at the Pineapple Research Institute in Hawaii.
After earning a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1950, he joined the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Washington D.C., first as a hydraulic engineer, then chief hydrologist, and finally senior research hydrologist. He is especially honored for his work with the USGS, where he is credited for transforming the Water Resources Division into the nation's premier agency for water research. After his retirement, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, as a professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the Department of Landscape Architecture. He is now professor emeritus at Berkeley.
Leopold's list of awards and honors both in the U.S. and abroad is extensive and includes the National Medal of Science, the Distinguished Service Medal from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Distinguished Career Award from the Geological Society of America, and the Rockefeller Public Service Award. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the Geological Society of America, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Geophysical Union.