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Massey Medal

2010 Winner - Raymond Price

Raymond Price. (Photo: Bernard Clark)

Mountain of knowledge
It is a true testament to Raymond Price’s contributions to the study of mountains that in 2004, geologists from 16 countries gathered at a symposium of The Geological Society of America to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first article, simply titled “Whence the Mountains?” The geologists presented 56 papers on various aspects of structural geology and tectonics that had been influenced ’s research.

Since he posed that question as an undergraduate student in 1954, Price, a professor emeritus of geology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., has devoted a large part of his career to determining how mountains form, particularly in the southern Canadian Cordillera. “He fundamentally changed our understanding of how those mountain chains were created,” says David Boerner, a director general at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) in Ottawa.

For his groundbreaking research on the tectonic evolution of the Canadian Cordillera, Price has been awarded the 2010 Massey Medal. Inaugurated by Governor General Vincent Massey in 1959 and administered by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the award recognizes outstanding achievement in Canadian Canadian geography.

2010 Massey Medal Winner Raymond Price
Click photo to enlarge
Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, awards the Massey Medal to Raymond Price, a geologist and professor emeritus at Queen’s University. (Photo: David Barbour)
A native of Winnipeg, Price had never seen a mountain until he landed a summer job with the GSC in 1952, while attending the University of Manitoba. “By luck, it took me to the Purcell Mountains in southeastern British Columbia,” he recalls. “I was immediately amazed by the mountains and how they possibly got to be what they are.”

He spent a few summers mapping the geology of mountains, which “consisted of walking up the side of a mountain, several thousand feet up, and coming down again, and recording all the rocks that were encountered going up and coming down.” That exacting training undoubtedly contributed, years later, to his most important scientific discovery: the geophysical process that left a detailed record of the evolution of the Rocky Mountains preserved in the sediments of the foreland basin (a depression that developed adjacent to the mountain belt) while it was forming.

Throughout his career, Price has alternated between positions at the GSC and at Queen’s University. He rose to the rank of assistant deputy minister in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in 1987. In both spheres, he has been an advocate of integrating different disciplines to help resolve important societal issues, such as the disposal of Canada’s nuclear waste. He played a leading role in establishing Lithoprobe, a multidisciplinary program to examine the composition, geometry and evolution of the North American continent. He was also instrumental in securing Canada’s membership in the Ocean Drilling Program to study the ocean floor, described as “the great unknown frontier.”

— Monique Roy-Sole

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