William Jason Morgan

Photo By: Denise Applewhite,
Office of Communications, Princeton University

After earning his bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1957, William Jason Morgan went to Princeton as a graduate student in physics. He received his Ph.D. in 1964 and promptly joined Princeton’s geosciences department. Morgan is best known for his work on the application of marine magnetic anomalies to seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. His landmark paper establishing the kinematic framework for plate tectonics, published in 1968, is considered one of the major milestones of U.S. science in the 20th century. He was also the first to recognize the presence and important implications of the mid-plate volcanic “hotspots” that create island chains like Hawaii, and co-authored an important work deciphering the complex interactions that result when three tectonic plates meet at a triple-junction.

In recent years Dr. Morgan paid particular attention to enriching undergraduate education at Princeton, teaching a popular introductory course that attracted students to the geosciences. In November 2003 he received the National Medal of Science – the nation’s highest scientific honor – at a ceremony at the White House. Among the many other awards he has received throughout his professional career are the Japan Prize, the Alfred Wegener Medal, the Walter Bucher Medal, the Wollaston Medal and the Maurice Ewing Medal. Dr. Morgan is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a foreign fellow of the European Union of Geosciences, and a foreign associate of the French Academy of Sciences.