Issued by:

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
RAS Press Officer
Office & home phone: Cambridge ((0)1223) 564914
FAX: Cambridge ((0)1223) 572892

The Royal Astronomical Society has awarded its annual Blackwell Prize for an outstanding PhD thesis on a topic in geophysics
to Dr Mark Muller, who studied in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He will receive his
one-thousand-pound award and talk about his work at the Royal Astronomical Society’s meeting in London on 10th December
1999. The prize is sponsored by the leading scientific publishers Blackwell Science Ltd.

Dr Muller’s research throws new light on the details of the process that results in the Earth’s crust being constantly renewed as
molten rock wells up at mid-ocean ridges from the mantle below. He travelled to the Southwest Indian Ridge in the Indian
Ocean on board the British research ship RRS Discovery to carry out seismic experiments on the sea floor in a place where the
crust is spreading very slowly. He discovered that it is thinner than the crust formed anywhere else in the world’s ocean basins.
It is also broken up into segments that are typically shorter than those formed in other places where crust formation is going on.

Responding to news of the award, Dr Muller said, “I am really pleased with what is a very unexpected acknowledgement of my
research work, and I’m honoured to be associated with the Royal Astronomical Society in this way.”

Dr Muller was born and brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and studied for his BSc and MSc degrees at the University of
the Witwatersrand. After working as an exploration geophysicist in South Africa for about 4 years, he resigned in order to
pursue research for a PhD at the University of Cambridge, where he was a student at St John’s College. His studies were
supported by a South African scholarship, the Carl and Emily Fuchs Foundation Overseas Scholarship, a British CVCP overseas
research studentship, and St John’s College.

He is now based in South Africa again, working for the Anglo American Corporation in Johannesburg. His work involves the
3-D imaging of mineral deposits, a powerful technique for optimising the design of mines to enhance both safety and efficiency.