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Barclay Kamb

Walter Barclay Kamb was a longtime professor and researcher at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Professor Kamb was one of the first scientists to journey to the Antarctic to study how the glacier sheets move and operate. He is listed as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the Geology department.[1]

His death has been reported on 22 of April 2011.[2]


  • Career 1
  • Personal 2
  • Research 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


In 1952, he received his Bachelor’s degree at Caltech and in 1956 received his Ph.D. at Caltech under Linus Pauling. "His best student," said Pauling. He became the assistant professor of Geology, from 1956–1960, shortly after receiving his Ph.D. In the next two years he worked as an associate professor, and then became a professor from 1962-1963. Kamb concentrated in being a professor of Geology and Geophysics for the next 27 years from 1963-1990 at Caltech. He became Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn Professor from the years 1990-1999, and then on has remained Rawn Professor Emeritus. Professor Kamb was elected chairman in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences from 1972–83, and for a short period, from 1987–89, took charge as Vice President and Provost of the Institute.[3]

Barclay Kamb was a professor Emeritus.


Barclay Kamb was born on December 17, 1931 in San Jose, California. He died at his home in Pasadena on April 21, 2011. He was married to Linda Pauling Kamb and has four sons and nine grandchildren.

Kamb applied for admission to Caltech at age 15. Caltech has a policy against early admission, so Kamb attended Pasadena City College. This so embarrassed Caltech that it admitted Kamb the following year. The Institute never regretted that exception. Later, following completion of his PhD, Kamb was offered the rare opportunity to join the Caltech faculty by Robert Sharp. These were merely the start of Kamb's exceptionalism.


Early in his career, Kamb studied the determination of the atomic structure of minerals, and how they related to different structures of ice. For his work in the field of minerals, Barclay Kamb was awarded the Mineralogical Society of America award.[4]

Professor Kamb concentrated on studying structures produced by rock flow and fracture in the earth.[3] Years later, Kamb turned his attention to studying the mechanics of glacier flow, with an emphasis on basal sliding, surging, and streaming flow in the Antarctic ice sheet. Professor Kamb focused his explorations on the flow of streams in Antarctic glacier ice sheets. His research led to very important discoveries about ice sheets in the 1990s and early 2000s. These ice sheets contained ice streams, which were streams that flowed inside of the sheets with speeds 100 times greater than the movement of the normal ice sheet motion.[5] Kamb reported that if these sheets were to increase in speed and become larger, it could potentially cause a collapse in the ice sheets.

To further his knowledge of these ice streams, he devised a till to lubricate the glacier to make the flow of the ice streams more like a landslide than of normal glaciers.[5] Even though the till helped, there were complications that had to be fixed. In spite of the obstacles, Kamb managed to successfully develop a new ice coring drill that provides samples needed to solve these complications. In order to study these ice streams, Kamb and a team of 13 to 14 people made expeditions to the Antarctic from October, 2002, to January, 2003. They installed video cameras and equipment to allow for remote data analyzes, so teams would not have to venture out so often.

Barclay Kamb and Hermann Engelhardt, both researchers at Caltech who led the teams, were honored by the American Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (ACAN) with the renaming of an ice stream and ice ridge into Kamb Ice Stream and Engelhardt Ice Ridge, respectively.[6] This was an immense accomplishment considering that these ice structures were the first to be studied and named.

In 1977 Barclay Kamb was awarded the Seligman Crystal by the International Glaciological Society. The Crystal is considered to be one of the highest awards in glaciology.


  1. ^ List of members of the National Academy of Sciences (Geology). List
  2. ^ pers. comm.
  3. ^ a b Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. Barclay Profile
  4. ^ "The Month At Caltech." Engineering and Science March 1972: 1.
  5. ^ a b Kamb, Barclay. "Glacier Mechanics." 21 September 2004. Geological Planetary Sciences.
  6. ^ Tindol, Robert. "Antarctic Landmarks Named After Caltech Experts On Glacier Ice Flow." Caltech Press (2003)

External links

  • Glaciology
  • Antarctic landmarks named after Caltech experts on glacier ice flow
  • The Caltech
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