Dr. Woodman receives Appleton Prize

Presentation of the Appleton Prize

Professor A. David Olver, President of the UK Panel for URSI, presented the Appleton Prize as follows: The Appleton Prize is awarded to a distinguished scientist in the field of the Ionospheric Physics by the Council of the Royal Society on the recommendation of the Board of Officers of URSI. The prize commemorates the life and work of Sir Edward Appleton, who was a former president of the URSI. Sir Edward first demonstrated in 1924 the existence of the ionosphere by measuring the time of arrival of radio waves reflected by the layers of the ionosphere. His highly significant discoveries led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1947 for his work in Ionospheric Physics and Radio Propagation. He worked on ionospheric propagation all his working life, even as he held increasingly distinguished posts. His contribution to URSI was immense where he valued interaction with radio scientists throughout the world. He once said, " the big things in science occur when an adventure takes place in the mind of an individual." Since the creation of the Appleton Prize, URSI has awarded it to distinguished scientists who fulfill Sir Edward’s dream. This years’ recipient, Professor Ronald F. Woodman fulfills this criteria well. He is an enormously creative scientist who has made major contributions to a wide range of topics related to radar probing of the upper atmosphere. He is one of the few scientists, active in South America, who has made major contributions to a wide range of topics related to radar probing of the upper atmosphere. He is one of the few scientists, active in South America, who has made major contributions to many areas of URSI interest, Professor Woodman was born in Peru and after graduating from the National University for Engineering went to the USA and obtained his PhD Degree from Harvard University on the subject of incoherent scatter. He then embarked on a distinguished career which has combined radio science with management of ionospheric and atmospheric research, notably Head of the Atmospheric Physics Group at the Arecibo Observatory and Director of the Jicamarca Observatory in Peru. He is now Executive President of the Institute of Geophysics in Peru. His major contributions included work on incoherent scatter, where he provided the first theory to explain exactly how ion-ion collisions affect the ion gyro-resonance. He pioneered and recently improved the measurement of plasma drift velocity in Peru to permit the better measurement of ionospheric studies. This technique and its more recent extensions to multi-radar imaging are widely used in studies of plasma instabilities at the equator and in the aurora1 zone. He also created the entire field of mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere wind profile measurements with VHF radars. A large network of wind profilers exists throughout the worldbecause of his insights. His leadership of the radar ionospheric community has been exemplary and this makes him a worthy recipient of the Appleton Prize. The citation reads "for major contributions and leadership in the radar studies of the ionospheric and neutral atmosphere".

Reply by Professor Ronald F. Woodman

For a scientist there is no greater satisfaction than receiving recognition from his own peers. You can imagine how honoured, happy, satisfied and proud I feel. Receiving the Appleton prize is for me the true culmination of my professional career. I couldn’t aspire to more.

I also think that this year’s Appleton prize has a special meaning: For the first time it is being awarded to a scientist from an underdeveloped country. Don’t let my name fool you. As my accent probably suggests, I am a Peruvian national. My English grandfather came to Peru more than a century ago. I was born in Piura, Peru, and was brought up in the same city. I mention this for two reasons: first, because of the greater significance an international scientific prize has within my own society, and second, because of what I hope it could mean for the future of science in Peru.

Receiving a prize like this brings a feeling of pride that extends to one’s family and beyond, no matter the nationality of the recipient, but I doubt this happens in a well-developed society to the same degree that I have experienced. It is front page news for a Peruvian to get an international scientific prize. Ever since the news was made public, I have continued to receive sincere congratulations from people and Peruvian institutions that want to share with me the  honour I brought to them, as well as to myself. This reaction has multiplied by hundreds my feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Thus, I have received hundreds of prizes, not just one.

My second point is one I hope will be heard by my countrymen and women in Peru. It can be said very succinctly in Spanish: "Peru puede!" (Peru can do it!). Our science and technology is poorly developed, but we are not limited by our culture or basic education. I received my primary and secondary education in typical Peruvian private and public provincial schools. I spent six of my school years at the Santa Rosa School in Sullana, a sister city of Piura, which at that time had only two of its main streets paved. But it was there that I was first exposed to the beauty of mathematics as a perfect example of deductive reasoning through a high school course in Euclidean geometry. My teachers were young Maristas Brothers, Spanish missionaries who sacrificed their lives for the benefit of their fellow men in a truly Christian spirit. I earned my Mechanical and Electrical Engineering degree at the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria in Lima, Peru. But, on the other hand, I was one of the few Peruvian professionals fortunate enough to receive a postgraduate education, which had to be done abroad, in my case at Harvard. I was also able to return home to a challenging scientific position. These are two circumstances I would like to underline and elaborate on. But, before doing it, I should add that, while at Harvard, I never felt handicapped by my earlier education in Peru.

Nowadays, as in my time, if an ambitious Peruvian professional-of whom there are many- wants to obtain advanced technical and scientific knowledge, he or she has to go abroad. Some do, as I did, if they can find the support, but in most cases they do not return, not for a lack of willingness but because of the lack of opportunities in Peru. I was a fortunate exception, because the Jicamarca Radio Observatory -where I have done most of my research work- existed, and because Jicamarca is one of the only few institutions in Peru where world recognized science is d o n e .

The lesson to be learned by Peru from my experience and my receiving the Appleton prize is that if it wants to develop (and this may hold true, as well, for other developing countries), it should improve its almost non-existent post-graduate education and research laboratories and programs. We must develop our human resources at the frontiers of knowledge since, nowadays, the wealth of a nation is found not in the abundance of its natural resources but in the abundance and quality of the knowledge available to its people. Look at the examples provided by Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel and Singapore.

As I said, I was fortunate to have access to the Jicamarca Observatory, one of the most powerful instruments in the world for the study of the upper atmosphere, a facility of the Geophysical Institute of Peru since 1969. But an observatory is more than equipment; it requires people, well-trained scientists, engineers and technicians and the willingness and hard work of all its personnel, which I was also fortunate to have. I would like to share this prize with all of them.

Most of my research work has been done with the repeated collaboration of many colleagues. This can be seen in the co-authorship of my papers. I would like to share the prize with them too.

My special thanks to the colleges who proposed me for the prize; to the URSI Board, the Awards Advisory Panel and to the London Royal Society for their decision; and to all of you for being here with me today.

I dedicate the honour of this prize to my wife, Gladys, and to my six children: Karma, Randy, Pauline, Suzzette, Christian, and Elgin.

from Radio Science Bulletin, 290, September, 1999.