The Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) organized a symposium in April 2018 to honor Joseph B. Walsh ‘52, ME ‘56, SCD ‘58 (II).
Walsh was a long time member of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) and a close collaborator with former department head William F. Brace. After his graduation from MIT, Walsh spent time spent overseas and worked with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution before joining MIT’s former Geology and Geophysics Department (now EAPS) in 1963, beginning a 25-year collaboration with Brace.
EAPS alumni Arthur C. H. Cheng SCD ‘78 (XII), David Lockner PhD ‘90 (XII, XII D), Dale Morgan PhD ‘81 (XII, XII D), Amos M. Nur PhD ‘69 (XII), and Chris Scholz PhD ‘67 (XII) were among the speakers at the symposium. “The Walsh-Brace period was one of rapid development in rock mechanics on many fronts”, noted Scholz, “It was a perfect combination: Joe did the theory, and Bill did the experiments.”
Walsh used rigorous mechanical principles to devise theories fundamental to such diverse fields as seismology, oil and gas exploration, and hydrology. After retiring from MIT in 1986, he settled in Westport, Massachusetts and continued to conduct theoretical studies of rock friction and fluid flow in fractured rocks. In 1999, he was appointed a visiting scholar in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University, where he continued his research until his death at the age of 86.
“Walsh was well-known in the rock mechanics community, although perhaps underappreciated outside it,” said Scholz, “The influence of his work has been broad and profound.” EAPS Research Scientist Yves Bernabé PhD ‘86 (XII), who was also Bill Brace’s final PhD student, explained why so many came to remember Joe at the symposium: “Joe had a great influence on so many lives. He was not just a great scientist but also a true friend. He had a great sense of humor, and it was always fun to spend time with him.”
Read more about Walsh’s life and research:
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