William Richard Peltier

University of Toronto
William Richard Peltier Image

In his many fields of activity, Professor Richard Peltier is acknowledged to be a world expert whose continuing contributions are regarded as being of fundamental importance to the understanding of our planet and its environment. No question exists regarding the excellence of Professor Peltier's work and its importance to the fields of geodynamics and climate dynamics. None of his competitors can match his depth of knowledge and the sophistication he brings to bear on problems related to "Global Change", a current focus of which is work on the problem of global sea level rise. Professor Richard Peltier received a B.Sc. degree in 1967 from the University of British Columbia and both M.Sc. (1969) and Ph.D. (1971) degrees in Physics from the University of Toronto. Upon completion of his doctoral degree he was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Physics where he was promoted through the ranks to the position of Professor in 1979. During these years he held visiting appointments at CIRES/INSTARR, University of Colorado and in the Department of Geophysics and Space Physics, University of California at Los Angeles. In 1978-79 his Sloan Fellowship and Steacie Fellowship Leave was spent at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado and his Guggenheim Fellowship Leave, 1987-88, at DAMTP and the Bullard Laboratories, Cambridge University. His most recent (2002-2003) sabbatical leave is being spent as Professeur Invite with the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris. As an outgrowth of his work in theoretical hydrodynamics, Professor Peltier has been deeply interested in the development of Canadian infrastructure for large scale computation -- a crucial tool in the analysis of the chaotic dynamical processes that occur in fluid systems. A product of this interest has been the development at the University of Toronto of PSciNet, a distributed facility for large scale scientific computation that has attracted strong support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Professor Peltier is without question a world authority on the rheology of the Earth's mantle and the process of thermal convection that occurs in this region of Earth's interior, a field that has been significantly transformed by the mathematical power and rigour of his work. Moreover, while most investigators are content to contribute to only one of the several sub-fields of Earth scientific research, Professor Peltier has acquired command or mastery of many. What makes his stature as a geophysicist even more remarkable and impressive is his impact on atmospheric science as well, where he has made profound contributions to problems involving nonlinear processes, including the theory of severe downslope windstorms, the theory of the onset and maturation of density stratified turbulence, and the theory of ice-age occurrence due to variations in the geometry of Earth's orbit around the Sun. In all of these demanding subjects he brings penetrating mathematical skills that have set new standards of analysis. Professor Peltier has also been a remarkably productive teacher who has advised many students who have become outstanding scientists in their own right. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and his election as early as 1979 as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union is an honour bestowed upon only a limited number each year, and often only after a lifetime of internationally recognized scientific leadership. In 1991, he was also elected to Fellowship in the American Meteorological Society following completion of work on the theory of mid-latitude cyclogenesis.