Tribute to H.J. Harrington, audacious geologist

The secretariat of UNESCO’s International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) is saddened to share the news of the passing of Dr. H.J. ‘Larry’ Harrington, the originator of the idea that led to the establishment of IGCP, on 1 August 2015 in Australia.

In 1964, guided by his conviction of the then controversial theory of continental drift and inspired by the International Geophysical Year in 1957, Larry Harrington drafted a letter to 50 leading geologists suggesting the establishment of an International Gondwana Project to study geological correlations between southern continents. This proposal attracted much attention and, in fact, led to strong pressure to broaden its scope so as to include the nations of the northern hemisphere. Eventually, with a group of other young Australian geologists, he proposed an international geological research programme which was eventually adopted by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and UNESCO.

One of the highest peaks of the Victory Mountains of Antarctica was named after him in recognition of his work in the region: he led two Geological Survey Antarctic Expeditions and participated in several others, some with his brother-in-law Sir Edmund Hillary. Mt. Harrington stands 2,610m tall, to the west of the Whitehall Glacier.

Larry Harrington’s determination and audacity to think big in terms of geography of study, interdisciplinary and finances has provided fundamental contributions to the international geological community. On behalf of the extended IGCP family, the secretariat extends it sincerest condolences to Larry’s family and friends. His legacy continues through the International Geoscience Programme.