Ref NoLDGSL/1107
TitleMCKENZIE, Dan Peter (1942-)
Extent71 boxes
DescriptionPapers of Dan Peter MCKENZIE, 1963-present, comprising:

Scientific and general correspondence, [1965]-2013; Correspondence relating to academic career at Cambridge University, including employment contracts, student reports and general administration, 1969-2008 [Closed]; References and referee reports written by McKenzie for others, 1966-2009 [Restricted]; Correspondence, programmes, abstracts and other material relating to major prizes/awards given to McKenzie, 1985-2003; Correspondence with authors and scientific contemporaries concerning the writing of histories of plate tectonics, [1965]-2013;

Research and working papers - King's Fellowship dissertation and PhD, 1963-1968; Plate Tectonics and early papers, [c.Oct 1966]-1977; Convection & thermal history, 1970-1991; Sedimentary basins, 1977-1987; Gravity and bathymetry, 1973-[1974]; Melting and compaction, 1983-[2011]; Melt inversion, 1989-1993; Flood basalts, 1992-2002; Venus, 1989-2001; Planetary geology, 1967-2001; General continental tectonics, 1976-2019;

Digital scans of photographs of McKenzie, [1960-2011];

Lecture notes, student handouts, practicals and examinations for courses taught by McKenzie at the University of Cambridge, England, 1981-2011 [restricted];

Brief file, relating to McKenzie's consultancy work with BP, 1995-1999;

Financial records of Dan McKenzie, 1966-1969, 1973 & 1997-1998 [Closed].
Administrative HistoryDan Peter McKenzie was born on 21 February 1942 in Cheltenham, England. His father, William McKenzie, was an ear, nose and throat surgeon who qualified just before the start of World War Two. The family moved from rural Buckinghamshire to London around 1949, when McKenzie's father became (like his own father before him) a Harley Street doctor. McKenzie's author mother, writing under her maiden name of Nan Fairbrother, would capture her children's early years in books such as 'An English Year' (1954) and 'The Cheerful Day' (1960), referring to McKenzie and his younger brother by their middle names 'Peter' and 'John' in order to avoid their embarrassment at school.

McKenzie first attended a school in Aylesbury, then three public schools in London, most notably Westminster School where he would later state that he was not a particularly academic pupil until the age of 14 or 15 when he began to properly learn mathematics, physics and chemistry. Despite his father trying to encourage him to take up medicine, McKenzie was determined to study physical sciences at Cambridge. His Westminster physics tutor, Austin Stokoe, who had studied at King's College, Cambridge, sent McKenzie to talk to John Earle Raven (1914-1980) a Fellow at King's in the spring of 1959. Raven was not a scientist but a classicist and the two spent their time discussing Dostoevsky and orchids, ending with McKenzie being offered a place despite not yet having taken any exams. In the summer of 1959, McKenzie won a state scholarship, taking mathematics for scientists, physics and chemistry, and winning a King's scholarship in the same subjects in December of that year. However McKenzie decided to remain at Westminster, believing that the mathematics teaching there was superior to that at King's, winning another state scholarship in pure and applied mathematics in the summer of 1960. Mathematics, although a compulsory element of the University of Cambridge's Natural Science Tripos, was not considered as being one of the three scientific subjects, so alongside physics and chemistry, McKenzie was offered the third choice of either physiology or geology. He took out all the books on each science from his school library to help him decide. The physiology books were modern texts for medical students which he considered dull, and although the only two books on geology were the 19th century texts of Charles Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (first published 1830-1833) and Archibald Geikie's 'Ancient of Volcanoes of Great Britain' (1897) McKenzie thought they were marvellous. Unfortunately in comparison he found the modern geological lectures at Cambridge intellectually poor so dropped the subject at the end of his first year to concentrate on mathematics and physics. As many of his undergraduate friends were his ex-geological classmates, McKenzie would still wangle his way onto their field trips, spending the summer of 1961 as assistant to David Gee (1937-) in Spitsbergen, Norway, and the Easter of 1962 in south west Wales with friends who included Mark Moody-Stuart (1940-), later Sir Mark Moody-Stuart.

McKenzie had sailed through the previous two years' of exams but by his final undergraduate year, studying physics full-time, he had grown bored, avoiding going to the practicals and examples classes to instead spend most of the winter ice skating on the frozen Cam. He did manage to graduate with a BA 2:1 Class Natural Sciences, Theoretical Physics but only by "shutting myself up alone in our country house entirely by myself for three weeks at Easter" (Letter to Frankel, 18 Mar 1990). Outside of his set course which he found easy, McKenzie also attended the lectures of Paul Dirac (1902-1984) on quantum theory and Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) on stellar structure, becoming friends with the latter (who was also an old friend of his mother's) and from whom he sought advice on what he should do next. Another Cambridge academic who took an interest in the young undergraduate was Maurice Hill (1919-1966), the marine geophysicist, who was McKenzie's director of studies at King's during his final year. Hill was based in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, Madingley Rise and introduced McKenzie to another member of the department from King's - Drummond 'Drum' Matthews (1931-1997). Both Hill and Matthews encouraged McKenzie to study for a PhD in geophysics but considering him to be too theoretically inclined for either of them, sent McKenzie to talk to the head of department Edward 'Teddy' Bullard (1907-1980). Liking both the place and the people at Madingley Rise, McKenzie agreed.

In October 1963, McKenzie entered the Department of Geodesy & Geophysics, Cambridge University as Teddy Bullard's graduate student, having been awarded a Shell Scholarship (given to the year's most promising applicant for graduate work, the previous year's award having gone to Fred Vine) in May 1963 on the recommendation of Bullard and Hill. Bullard was keen that McKenzie carry on with a problem on which he himself had previously worked, that is of trying to use the atomic force laws to calculate the seismic velocities in the mantle. Although he found that it wasn't fully possible at that time, McKenzie wrote a dissertation on the subject in the autumn of 1964 for which he was awarded a King's Fellowship in March 1965. This dissertation was a breakthrough for McKenzie academically, commenting that Bullard had taught him how to do science whilst his mother had taught him how to write and present his work, both of which held him in good stead thereafter.

By this time, McKenzie wanted to become more involved in the debates concerning continental drift which were happening within the Cambridge department and elsewhere and decided to look at theories of Walter H Munk (1917-) and Gordon F McDonald (1929-2002) regarding the shape of the Earth (which would eventually become the topic of his PhD dissertation 'The Shape of the Earth'). Also, after five years at Cambridge, McKenzie was keen to take a break from the University and managed to persuade Freeman Gilbert (1931-2014) from the Institute of Geophysics & Planetary Physics, Scripps Oceanographic Institution, University of California, San Diego, USA, who was in Cambridge on sabbatical to invite him to Scripps. He arrived in early summer, meeting US geoscientists such as George Backus (1930-), Bill Menard (1920-1986) and Munk and learning to compute. During the trip, McKenzie also visited Cecil Green (1900-2003) in Texas, Francis Birch (1903-1992) at Harvard University, Don Lynn Anderson (1933-) & Gerald Wasserburg (1927-) at Caltech and Gordon McDonald at UCLA. The trip made a huge impression on McKenzie but came to an end after eight months when he unexpectedly received US military call up papers. Having no idea of how to travel to America, McKenzie had simply applied for an immigration visa at the US Embassy, unaware that it meant that he was eligible for the draft. McKenzie then returned to Britain to complete his PhD.

On gaining his PhD at the end of 1966, McKenzie spent the majority of the next three years as a visiting fellow or associate at the major university geology/geophysics departments in the US, namely: California Institute of Technology [Caltech] (Research Fellowship, January-June 1967); Scripps, University of California, San Diego (Assistant Research Geophysicist II, July-November 1967); Lamont Geological Observatory of Columbia University (research scientist, January-February 1968); Princeton University (lecturer, March-May 1968). In the summer of 1968 McKenzie returned to England and the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics at Cambridge, where his Fellowship at King's was extended for a further two years, and later in December was elected to a four year Senior Fellowship. In spring 1969, McKenzie went back to the US, firstly to Caltech to take up a three month post as annual Visiting Associate (March-June 1969), then moving once again onto Scripps (July-August 1969).

The publication of his seminal paper on plate tectonics in 1967 had made McKenzie famous in US geoscience circles, but he was virtually unknown in Britain, as illustrated by his rejection for an ICI Fellowship from Imperial College, London, in 1968. Yet despite being offered permanent (and well-paid) full academic posts in America, McKenzie returned to Cambridge University in August 1969 as he felt very English and wanted to work and establish his scientific reputation in his own country. McKenzie remained at Cambridge for the rest of his academic career, but returned to the US frequently as a visiting fellow in the summer months in order to work with other geoscientists such as his fellow Cambridge graduate John Sclater (1940-). McKenzie's first academic post, as Senior Assistant in Research (SAR) in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, was relatively junior but when in 1973 he wanted to apply for a promotion to the next grade up [Assistant Director of Research (ADR)], Teddy Bullard, who was about to retire from his post as Professor of Geophysics and head of department, made McKenzie apply for his job too. McKenzie was turned down as Professor, but appointed ADR. On 1 October 1979, McKenzie became Reader in Tectonics, a role specifically established for him, and in 1985 he was appointed Professor of Earth Sciences and head of the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge. McKenzie was given tenure as Royal Society Research Professor in 1996 until 2006. Although still based at Madingley Rise (now named the Bullard Laboratories), McKenzie retired as head of department in 2002 (as he believed that a departmental head should not work beyond the age of 60), and academic teaching in 2012.

McKenzie's first major paper was "Some remarks on heat flow and gravity anomalies" (1967) ['Journal of Geophysical Research', vol 72, pp6261-6273], which was a modification of the problematic seafloor spreading model put forward by others such as the US geologist Harry Hess (1906-1969). In the paper McKenzie demonstrated that the generation of a hot plate of finite thickness at a ridge axis could account for the variation of the depth of, and heat flow through, the ocean floor with age. The idea occurred to McKenzie whilst he was awaiting his viva for his PhD thesis at the end of 1966, doing the thermal calculations using the Eulerian form of temperature equations (on the recommendation of his fellow graduate Bob Parker) and the programming when he was at Caltech at the beginning of 1967. This model, with some later modifications, would form the basis of most of McKenzie's subsequent work.

"The North Pacific: an example of tectonics on a sphere" (1967) ['Nature' vol 216 , pp1276-1280], written with Bob Parker, is McKenzie's most famous early paper. Tuzo Wilson suggested in 1965 that the surface of the Earth could be divided into rigid aseismic regions, and in the previous year Teddy Bullard had used Euler's theorem to describe rigid movements on a sphere when he made his continental reconstructions. In the paper, McKenzie combined the two concepts, which became the modern theory of plate tectonics. The main controversy surrounding the paper is that Jason Morgan of Princeton University, had presented similar ideas on the subject in his presentation 'Rises, Trenches, Great Faults and Crustal Blocks' given at the 48th Annual Meeting of the America Geophysical Union (AGU) on 19 April 1967. However whilst McKenzie attended the conference he did not hear Morgan's talk as the abstract published in the conference programme (from which Morgan deviated) held no interest for him. Instead he only discovered that Morgan was working along similar lines after being informed by Bill Menard who was refereeing Morgan's paper which had been submitted to the 'Journal of Geophysical Research' [published in the vol 73 (1968), pp1959-1982]. As both parties had reached the same theory separately, McKenzie requested that 'Nature' delay the publication so that both papers could go out simultaneously in March 1968, however it had already been sent to press and was published on 30 December 1967.

Although other papers on plate tectonics followed, notably "The evolution of triple junctions" with Jason Morgan (1969) ['Nature', vol 224, pp125-133], McKenzie had all but given up on the subject by 1972, instead broadening out his studies to trying to understand the principal processes by which continents deform. His theoretical investigations into lithospheric stretching resulted in McKenzie's most widely cited paper of them all, "Some remarks on the development of sedimentary basins" (1978) ['Earth and Planetary Science Letters', vol 40, pp25-32]. The 'McKenzie model' as it is sometimes referred to, now forms the basis of most sedimentary basin models that are used by the oil industry.

Other major areas of research include his work on mantle convection and the behaviour of vigorously convecting fluids, and melt generation within the Earth and subsequently the planet Venus.

McKenzie has received many awards recognising his scientific achievements, notably:
Macelwane Award, American Geophysical Union, 1975; Fellowship of the Royal Society, 1976; Harold Jeffreys Lecturer, Royal Astronomical Society, 1977; Honorary Member, Geological Society of France, 1977; Hopkins Prize of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1978; A G Huntsman Award of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada, 1980; Balzan Prize of the International Balzan Foundation (with Fred Vine & Drum Matthews), 1981; Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London, 1983; Wegener Medal of the European Union of Geosciences (with Jason Morgan), 1983; Best paper award of the Organic Geochemistry Division of the Geochemical Society of America, 1984; Foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, 1985; Rutherford Memorial Lecturer of the Royal Society, 1988; Foreign Associate, US National Academy of Sciences, 1988; Arthur L Day Medal of the Geological Society of America, 1989; Honorary Member, European Geophysical Society, 1989; Japan Prize, Science and Technology Foundation of Japan (awarded jointly with Jason Morgan & Xavier Le Pichon), 1990; Royal Medal, Royal Society, 1991; Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal, 1992; Jardetzky Lecturer, Lamont Geological Observatory, 1993; Royal Society Research Professor, 1996 [to 2006]; Raman Professor of the lndian Academy of Science, 1997; Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of America, 1997; Honorary Fellowship, Geological Society of India, 1999; Honorary Professor, South China lnstitute of Oceanology, Guangzhou, 2000; William Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union, 2001; Crafoord Prize, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 2002; Order of the Companions of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II, 2003.
ProvenanceThe collection was donated to the Society by Dan McKenzie in a number of accessions between August 2013 and December 2018. A small number of manuscript drafts of his papers were given to his friend and scientific colleague Professor Celal Sengor, ITU, Turkey. Professor Sengor donated them to the Society in June 2016.
AccrualsMcKenzie has retained a significant number of his research files, which will be deposited once he had finished with them. From the mid-1990s, McKenzie began to use email has his main method of correspondence. He has retained most of this electronically which will be deposited presently.
ArrangementIn the sections above. More detailed arrangement information is given at the beginning of each series.
Access ConditionsMost of the collection is open but there is some restricted material. Access is by appointment only. Please contact the Archivist for further information.
LanguageEnglish, with some French
ArchNoteSources: letter from McKenzie to Hank Frankel, 18 March 1990 (LDGSL/1107/A/5/2); Frankel, Henry R 'The Continental Drift Controversy. Evolution into Plate Tectonics', Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2012); Plate tectonics: an insider's history of the modern theory of the Earth', Cambridge, Massachusetts: Westview Press (2001); personal communications with McKenzie, 2013-2015. Description by Caroline Lam
CreatorNameMCKENZIE | Dan Peter | 1942- | geophysicist
DS/UK/1192MCKENZIE; Dan Peter (1942-); geophysicist1942-
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