ForeverMissed
This memorial website is dedicated to the memory of Peter Eagleson, the distinguished scientist who founded the discipline of global hydrology and who was also, as it happens, a remarkably personable and generous human being.  We encourage reflections, stories, and photos from the innumerable hydrologists and other Earth system scientists whose lives he touched.
Posted by Konstantine Georgakakos on February 25, 2021
Professor Eagleson taught me through his lectures and writings the value of innovation and clarity of thought. He is very much alive in my memory and efforts to emulate these qualities in my work. Thank you.
Posted by James Long on February 10, 2021
One day when I was working at Parsons Lab, Professor Eagleson came to my desk looking terribly worried. "The publisher won't use this photo of Beverly's for the cover of my new book. They say the file isn't good enough. Is there anything you can do?" All he had was a small color print that had seen better days, but I took it and worked up what I hoped would satisfy the AGU editors. A few days later, he came to my desk aglow - "They accepted the file! How should I credit you in the book?" I quietly demurred: "oh, no, that's OK - it's kind of a back-room tech thing, not usually credited..." He fixed me with a stare that I'm willing to bet anyone who knew him can visualize - "But it's my book, and I'd like you to have a credit." And that was that. I don't believe I can accurately describe what an honor his quiet insistence was, and all it implied - to this day it humbles me.

When Range and Richness of Vascular Land Plants was published he proudly brought me a copy, and it maintains a place of honor on my bookshelf (even though I have absolutely zero chance of understanding it).

I am extremely lucky to have met and worked with Professor Eagleson. My sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Posted by Diandong Ren on January 23, 2021
Distinguished Professor Eagleson was a great scientist and transformed hydrologic science. And more importantly he was a man of great integrity. He will be missed but always remembered.

In addition to his monumental contribution to the water cycle in the climate science, here I would like to reflect on several moments he inspired a then international student studying at OU. To me he is not a scientist of any specific discipline but a man of infinite creativity in all the science disciplines and is a master in inspiring new comers' impetus for performing research.

About three decades passed and I still remember his analogy of plant nutrient uptake with an intake of negative enthalpy. He told me (in beautiful handwritten letters) that plants cannot move around but they, through natural selection processes, developed skills to optimize the use of resources (light, water and nutrients). At least strategies that maximized the possibility of utilizing these resources. His thoughts assisted me in my later on research on soil erosion also from his inspiring comments on the possible role of secondary flows for sedimentation, making yet another vivid analogy.

Here (attached) as an example of his fondness to young scientists pursuing research in the climate and environmental science fields. Ever since, it (the communications with Dr Eagleson) served as a beacon of light for the future for my research. His exemplary way of performing strict, physics-based analysis for environmental problems set the highest standard for us followers.

I kept all the precious letters for good and will repeatedly read them down the road. I am only one of numerous being inspired by him and the huge loss for science community will be felt over the globe.
Posted by Keith Beven on January 23, 2021
Pete was an influence on my work from an early age - Dynamic Hydrology came out in 1970 and I started my PhD in 1971.  Reading that book changed my complete approach to hydrological modelling - even if the experience made me realise that we still have a long way to go in representing the "physics" of hydrological processes.  Later his work using the derived distribution methodology to estimate flood frequency led to me using continuous simulation with similarly generated stochastic inputs. Although we met only once or twice (and I was always in awe) he was always generous and supportive of the next generation of hydrologists.
Posted by Jingfeng Wang on January 12, 2021
I am deeply sadden by the passing of Prof. Eagleson. His passing symbolizes the end of an era.

Prof. Eagleson as a geoscientist of highest caliber has always been my inspiration. I came to the Parsons too late to take his classes. But I have his influential books “Dynamic Hydrology” and “Ecohydrology” at hand as daily references. His creativity and vision changed the course of hydrological science. I am fortunate to benefit from his invaluable contributions.

Prof. Eagleson is a humble and respecting person. Some most enjoyable moments of my time at the Parsons are the relaxing and comforting conversations with Prof. Eagleson at the Parsons kitchen. It was like yesterday.

Posted by Witold Krajewski on January 12, 2021
I met Professor Eagleson in 1983 at an AGU meeting in San Francisco. I was a recent emigre from Poland and not familiar with the organization as I had not studied here. He explained its mission and role in hydrologic research. I admired his work; he was already known for putting forth many pioneering ideas. Over the ensuing years, I enjoyed my interactions with him at meetings, as well as at his retirement event at MIT. I will remember his gentle smile and his directness in conversations. I feel fortunate to have met him in person.
Posted by Chris Milly on January 11, 2021
My relationship with Pete began as that of a student and his professor. Forty-two years ago, as an incoming MIT graduate student, I was mailed the Parsons Lab faculty research blurbs. For me, Prof. Eagleson’s write-up stood out from the rest. He wrote in terms of “fluxes” of “mass, energy, and momentum”—not the kind of language I had heard in my undergraduate hydrology courses at another school. He was striving and succeeding, with physical and mathematical rigor, to distill the essence of individual processes into kernels of understanding, which he then combined into a unified picture of the water balance. I was fascinated, and I was sucked in. It was intriguing to see dimensionless combinations of variables in hydrology, just like I had seen back in undergraduate fluid mechanics. I wanted to be part of this new hydrology, and Pete ended up as my research advisor.

Pete always had an encouraging word for me, but I got deeper insight into his graciousness soon after I received my doctorate. He wrote a letter to my father and mother, who later shared it with me. I still have that letter today. Pete wrote things that my parents had never said to me on their own, but that, through him, they were finally able to say.

Pete’s advocacy was invaluable during my early career. His faith in me as a youngster, which I really had not earned, set me on my way down a very rewarding path in science, first in academia, and then in government service. I owe much of my enjoyment of my career to Pete.

When I think of the brief visits to Pete and Bev that I’ve had the pleasure to make over the years, I see their smiles, feel the warmth of their home, hear the soothing trickles of their little fountain, and enjoy the embrace of their hospitality. These are very fond memories.

Pete’s intellect and humanity have left deep impressions on me. His way of thinking about hydrology was formative for me, and his grace inspires me to strive to be supportive of scientists who are just starting out on journeys of their own.
Posted by Dara Entekhabi on January 11, 2021
Peter Eagleson had an enormous impact on hydrology, arguably he defined modern hydrologic sciences and put into motion the infrastructure to support it. He was my mentor, one of the few people who welcomed me and then sheparded me to what I am now. I consider him my exemplar for professional and personal conduct.

My undergrad college did not have hydrology courses which interested me. So I read text-books on my own which became repetitious material after a while. Until one day I came across Peter Eagleson’s Dynamic Hydrology book at a neighboring library. It was so radically different and head-spinning that I had to sit in the stack aisles to regain my balance. Later I called him to meet with him. Some time after that I joined his research group as a very ill-prepared graduate student. Certainly I tried to absorb as much of the profession as I could from him and practice it. But I think where I have placed my next steps after a step have been guided more by what I learned from Peter Eagleson about generosity and personal integrity.
Posted by ignacio rodriguez-iturbe on January 11, 2021
Pete was a superb scientist and the most original hydrologist that I ever met but for me he was much,much, more than that. For the last 40 years we shared the happy times as well as the difficult ones. His kindness, honesty, care, and love were touchable in each and all of our weekly conversations . He was indeed a man for all sesons which greatly changed our science and for many also impacted our personal lives. I will always remember him.
Posted by Rafael L. Bras on January 11, 2021
Pete was a very special man. For many of us he was far more than a colleague. To me, he was a dear friend and a life-long mentor. Not only did I strive to emulate his professional creativity and his commitment to excellence but I tried hard to live up to his standards of honesty, integrity and professionalism. Speaking to him every month was always a pleasure although painful over the last few months. I visited him almost exactly a year ago. We had a great conversation and he complained about having a hard time going through the thick book on Hamilton that I had given him. But he was able to banter about politics and the poor state of the nation. I am glad he lived to see a change in leadership – he was happy about that. Forty-three years ago we were in Egypt during one of the dozens of trips we took together to that part of the world. We were having a beer (never drink the water) and he was somber. I asked him what was going on and he responded that he was about to turn 50 and that meant he would outlive his father. I have to say that I was taken aback since I never had seen the vulnerable part of him and as a 27-year-old assistant professor, I truly never thought of death – time has indeed marched on. Anyway, Pete survived an MS misdiagnosis for years and lived happily and productively for nearly another 43 years. Some of that happiness came from his love for Beverly. Over the last few years, he was the constant companion as her health deteriorated and continues to do so. She is quite a woman. I always remember the special glint she always had in her eyes when looking at Pete or reacting to some of his jokes - he always had a great sense of humor and enjoyed jokes that in this day and age were on the edge of appropriate for company (ask me some day about the “Big Man in Hydrology Award). It was fun. The dinners at the home of Don and Marty Harleman (another of my cherished mentors) were always a hilarious event as Don and Pete argued, talked politics and drank wine together.

Mentioning Don and Marty gives me the opportunity to end with by expressing how much I cherish those years at the Parsons Laboratory at MIT. We were indeed a family and family is always there when needed.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Konstantine Georgakakos on February 25, 2021
Professor Eagleson taught me through his lectures and writings the value of innovation and clarity of thought. He is very much alive in my memory and efforts to emulate these qualities in my work. Thank you.
Posted by James Long on February 10, 2021
One day when I was working at Parsons Lab, Professor Eagleson came to my desk looking terribly worried. "The publisher won't use this photo of Beverly's for the cover of my new book. They say the file isn't good enough. Is there anything you can do?" All he had was a small color print that had seen better days, but I took it and worked up what I hoped would satisfy the AGU editors. A few days later, he came to my desk aglow - "They accepted the file! How should I credit you in the book?" I quietly demurred: "oh, no, that's OK - it's kind of a back-room tech thing, not usually credited..." He fixed me with a stare that I'm willing to bet anyone who knew him can visualize - "But it's my book, and I'd like you to have a credit." And that was that. I don't believe I can accurately describe what an honor his quiet insistence was, and all it implied - to this day it humbles me.

When Range and Richness of Vascular Land Plants was published he proudly brought me a copy, and it maintains a place of honor on my bookshelf (even though I have absolutely zero chance of understanding it).

I am extremely lucky to have met and worked with Professor Eagleson. My sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Posted by Diandong Ren on January 23, 2021
Distinguished Professor Eagleson was a great scientist and transformed hydrologic science. And more importantly he was a man of great integrity. He will be missed but always remembered.

In addition to his monumental contribution to the water cycle in the climate science, here I would like to reflect on several moments he inspired a then international student studying at OU. To me he is not a scientist of any specific discipline but a man of infinite creativity in all the science disciplines and is a master in inspiring new comers' impetus for performing research.

About three decades passed and I still remember his analogy of plant nutrient uptake with an intake of negative enthalpy. He told me (in beautiful handwritten letters) that plants cannot move around but they, through natural selection processes, developed skills to optimize the use of resources (light, water and nutrients). At least strategies that maximized the possibility of utilizing these resources. His thoughts assisted me in my later on research on soil erosion also from his inspiring comments on the possible role of secondary flows for sedimentation, making yet another vivid analogy.

Here (attached) as an example of his fondness to young scientists pursuing research in the climate and environmental science fields. Ever since, it (the communications with Dr Eagleson) served as a beacon of light for the future for my research. His exemplary way of performing strict, physics-based analysis for environmental problems set the highest standard for us followers.

I kept all the precious letters for good and will repeatedly read them down the road. I am only one of numerous being inspired by him and the huge loss for science community will be felt over the globe.
his Life
Professor Peter S. Eagleson began working at MIT in 1952 and served as the head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1970 to 1975.  He was a pioneer in the field of hydrology, transforming it from an engineering specialty with local application into the global-scale study of the water cycle. His 1970 book, Dynamic Hydrology, provided radically new perspective on the movement and storage of water in the environment. The water cycle's interface with the climate system and biogeochemical cycles and its interactions with the biosphere were hallmarks of his new vision. In a series of seven papers under the main title Climate, Soil, and Vegetation -- published in a single issue of Water Resources Research, the main journal of the discipline – he demonstrated the potential of this new thinking for addressing some long-standing disciplinary and interdisciplinary challenges.
In 1991, the National Research Council published Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences, the report of a committee chaired by Professor Eagleson. This report recommended a new vision for the field of study that built on his pioneering ideas.
Following his retirement from MIT, Professor Eagleson continued producing inspiring new ideas. He published two books: Ecohydrology (2002) and Range and Richness of Vascular Land Plants (2009); these works ushered in yet another transformation of the discipline by bridging the fields of hydrology and ecology.
He served as the president of the American Geophysical Union from 1986 to 1988. In 1992, he was MIT Killian Award lecturer, the Institute’s highest faculty honor.
Recent stories
Shared by Randal Koster on January 13, 2021
I'm a bit of a packrat, which comes in handy when looking for memories from long ago.  Just a few years ago, rummaging through my old stuff, I came across the note Pete left on my desk the morning I picked up my general exam back in 1984.  He wished me good luck. I suppose I've kept that note all these years for (yes) good luck.  
I tried to find it this week, but -- darn it! -- I couldn't.  It's somewhere in the house.  During the search, however, I did find something just as good -- a specific memory of how Pete (the kind-hearted human, not just the brilliant advisor) went the extra mile.  As part of my thesis work, I lived in New York City for a year to work with the GISS GCM.  Apparently, he was well aware of how alone -- and lonely -- I was during that time, and so, believe it or not, he arranged a blind date for me!  (See photo.)  I'm not sure how many advisors would do that.  As it happened, that date went nowhere.  Still, it was a thoughtful thing to do.  I'll always remember Pete with great fondness, not just as the person who helped design my life path and who taught me the joy of solving (in my case, trying to solve) Nature's mysteries, but also as an utterly decent and kind human being.  I honestly can't put into words how important he was to my own development.