The Vetlesen Prize

Important Correspondence

Arthur Holmes

6 Albany,
20 St. John's Avenue
London, S.W.15

May 25th, 1964

Professor Maurice Ewing
Lamont Geological Observatory
Palisades, N.Y.

Dear Professor Ewing:

Thank you most cordially for your kind and understanding letter of May 14th. This time it arrived within two days and I must apologise for the delay in my reply. As it happened, I had promised to send to my publishers the last batch of typescript of my re-written 'Physical Geology' by the end of April, so that they could get it out in September. You will readily understand, I am sure, how it was I was unable to keep this promise. But Nelsons kept bustling me and I simply had to ignore everything else and concentrate on finishing the book. The last page went off to the printers yesterday and now only the index remains to be done. What a relief! Now I must catch up with a pile of correspondence starting, as you see, with my response to your presentation and this covering letter, which it is a real pleasure to write after struggling with the worrying complications of continental drift.

I had not realized that the Medal only reached your office the day before I received it from your hands. That fact shows that you have an unusually efficient secretary, and at this end the arrangements for the luncheon were highly successful, despite all the preliminary delays. I only mentioned the latter, partly to excuse myself for any appearance of discourtesy on my part, and partly because I thought you ought to know. In fact you did know and must have had some moments of real worry. However, in the end all went extremely well and it was delightful to make so many new friends, amongst whom Doris and I count you as the first, and a very real one. We very much look forward to seeing you again whenever you come to London and have a few hours to spare.

I hope you will approve the revised version I have written concerning Jeffreys. If my response is to be printed may I leave it to you to edit the speech in any way you may think desirable?

With warmest greetings from us both,

Ever sincerely yours,

Arthur Holmes

May 14,1964

Professor Arthur Holmes
6 Albany
20 St. Johns Avenue
Putney, England, S.W. 15

Dear Professor Holmes:

Thank you very much for your kind letter of the 28th of April. I am sorry and baffled by the fact that my letter again came surface mail. May I say at this point that the many mistakes which were made in regard to luncheon arrangements were made by people other than those on my own staff. The arrangements for the presentation of the Vetlesen Prize were taken out of our hands at an early stage and all that my own secretarial staff could do was to try to prevent disasters at the last minute. For instance, the medal to be presented to you was delivered to my office at about noon on the day preceding the presentation in London. It was sent to the office supposedly to be brought, by me, but nobody at Lamont Observatory was notified that I was the one who was supposed to bring it and they all assumed, quite logically, that Barrett Brown had. When the medal was received at the Observatory, my secretary realized that things were going badly wrong and made immediate arrangements to ship it by air. The invitations, which come by surface mail, were mailed from another office, at Columbia in New York City and not from the observatory.

I'm telling you all this not because it in any way excuses Columbia from a great deal of bungling but because I hope you do not have the impression that the staff of Lamont Observatory behaves as idiotically as it must appear. One thing we have learned from this is that in future years we must keep control at the Lamont.

The most recent letter which was mailed to you from this office was brought to the local post office by Mrs. Cox in my office. She brought it herself and made inquiries of the postmaster because we have all been dismayed at the various mistakes made in connection with the arrangements at the Royal Society and this time she wanted to make sure nothing would go wrong. Now it seems that the post office incorrectly informed her, despite her efforts. Well, all this is very discouraging and it must make a dreadful impression on you.

I think that Jeffreys would certainly agree and quite definitely say that he's not a geologist. One way that you could get out of this difficulty would be to say that you are the second Englishman to be awarded the Vetlesen Prize, but the first English geologist, the previous winner being Professor Jeffreys, a mathematician. However you say it, I'm not worried about it because I think you are right and that Jeffreys would agree.

I have written to Dr. Henry Allen Moe to find out if he knows who took the photographs and how we can get some. I too would like to have some. I will write to you again as soon as, hear from him.

It was a very great pleasure for me to be with you and Mrs. Holmes and I'm greatly relieved to learn that there were no bad effects on your health.

With best regards,

Sincerely yours
Maurice Ewing

6 Albany,
20 St. John's Avenue,
28th April 1964

Dear Professor Ewing,

We were delighted to receive your very kind letter this morning. It should have arrived before this, but like all the correspondence I have received from both Torrey Cliff and the University Office in New York, it was delayed because of being insufficiently stamped, and sent by surface instead of air mail. I expect the secretarial staff put the letters with those to be stamped for the U.S.A. instead of for abroad.

I shall, of course, be very happy to send you a copy of my response to your own most generous tribute, but before typing it I should be grateful for a little guidance. In what I actually said I claimed to be the first English geologist to have been honoured by the Vetlesen Award. My wife tells me that Mr Barrett Brown immediately said I was wrong, because I must have forgotten Jeffreys. She told him, quite correctly, that Jeffreys was one of my oldest friends, and a brilliant mathematician, but not a geologist, although he has made outstanding contributions to seismology. Now I do not wish to cause any kind of offence and it may be better if I omit that sentence, or re-word it so that there is no possible ambiguity. What do you think ?

While I am writing I should like to ask if there is any possibility of obtaining copies of some of the photographs that were taken during the luncheon and presentation? If you happen to know the name of the photographer or his firm, I could deal with him directly. The picture of the presentation was published in 'The Times' and came out very successfully. The 'New Scientist' also had a nice account in the current issue, but otherwise I have not noticed any publicity, apart from a brief announcement in 'Nature' .

Thanks to the pleasure of your company I thoroughly enjoyed the luncheon and I am glad to reassure you that there were no ill effects. Everyone was so kind, it was all most inspiring and encouraging.

With renewed thanks and all good wishes from us both,

Ever sincerely yours,
Arthur Holmes


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