|Born||19 November 1922
|Died||5 December 1995
San Diego, California
|Fields||plate tectonics; paleomagnetism|
|Institutions||University of Cambridge, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Alaska, Fairbanks|
|Alma mater||Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge|
|Doctoral advisor||Patrick Blackett|
|Doctoral students||numerous: see body of article|
|Known for||reestablishing viability of the theory of continental drift; discoveries in planetary magnetism|
|Influenced||two generations of earth scientists|
|Notable awards||Fellow of the Royal Society|
Stanley Keith Runcorn FRS (19 November 1922 – 5 December 1995) was a British physicist whose paleomagnetic reconstruction of the relative motions of Europe and America revived the theory of continental drift and was a major contribution to plate tectonics.
After a period in radar research during the World War II, he joined the Physics Department at the University of Manchester where he did research on aspects of the Earth's magnetic field, taking his Ph.D. under Patrick Blackett in 1949. This led to his interest in palaeomagnetism, the study of the magnetism of rocks, which he pursued first at the Geophysics Department at the University of Cambridge and later at Newcastle University, where he was appointed to the chair of Physics in 1956. At Newcastle Runcorn developed a strong research group in geophysics, and made substantial contributions to various fields, including convection in the Earth and Moon, the shape and magnetic fields of the Moon and planets, magnetohydrodynamics of the Earth's core, changes in the length of the day, polar wandering, continental drift and plate tectonics.
Runcorn received many honours, including Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1965, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Fleming medal of the American Geophysical Union. He was also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science. He served as the Sydney Chapman Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences at the University of Alaska from 1989 to 1995. After his retirement in 1988 he continued to be active in various lines of research until his untimely death in San Diego in 1995.
Circumstances of Death
Runcorn was murdered in his hotel room in San Diego during a lecture trip to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Police found that he had been strangled and found evidence of injuries to the head. Paul Cain, a professional kick-boxer, was later convicted and sentenced to a term of at least 25 years. Prosecutors argued that Cain killed Runcorn after stealing his wallet and credit cards, having targeted him as an elderly gay man and therefore easy victim. Cain was tried three times in all. The first trial ended with a deadlocked jury; the second with a conviction that was overturned on appeal, on grounds that testimony from Cain's two previous wives as to his violent temper should not have been admitted in evidence.
- Physics and chemistry of the Earth (1956), edited by L.H. Ahrens, K. Rankama, S.K. Runcorn
- Methods and techniques in geophysics (1966) ed.
- Continental drift (1962), S.K. Runcorn.
- International dictionary of geophysics : seismology, geomagnetism, aeronomy, oceanography, geodesy, gravity, marine geophysics, meteorology, the earth as a planet and its evolution (1967), ed.
- Mantles of the earth and terrestrial planets (1967) NATO Advanced Study Institute, ed.
- Methods in palaeomagnetism: Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Study Institute on Palaeomagnetic Methods (1967), edited by D.W. Collinson, K.M. Creer, S.K. Runcorn
- Palaeogeophysics, (1970) NATO Advanced Study Institute, ed.
- Earth Sciences (1971), S.K. Runcorn
- Implications of continental drift to the earth sciences (1973) NATO Advanced Study Institute, D.H. Tarling and S.K. Runcorn
- Mechanisms of continental drift and plate tectonics (1980) edited by P. A. Davies and S. K. Runcorn
- Magnetism, planetary rotation, and convection in the solar system : retrospect and prospect : in honour of Prof. S.K. Runcorn (1985) edited by W. O'Reilly, S. K. Runcorn
- The Physics of the planets : their origin, evolution, and structure (1987) ed.
- Collinson, D. W. (2002). "Stanley Keith Runcorn. 19 November 1922 - 5 December 1995". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 48: 391–310. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2002.0023. JSTOR 3650268.
- Powell, T.E. and Harper, P. "Outline of the Career of Stanley Keith Runcorn." Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Stanley Keith Runcorn FRS (1922-1995), geophysicist , College Archives, Imperial College London, 2002
- Walter Sullivan, "Leading Expert in Geophysics Is Found Slain in Hotel Room", New York Times, (7 December 1995)
- "Kick-boxer jailed for death of geophysicist," Nature, v.389, p.657 (16 October 1997)
- Ben Fox, "Man claims childhood abuse led him to murder renowned UAF scientist," Peninsula Clarion (28 February 2000)
- Gillispie, Charles Coulston, ed. (2008). "Runcorn, Stanley Keith". Complete dictionary of scientific biography 24. Detroit, Mich.: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 298–302. ISBN 978-0-684-31559-1.
- Hide, Raymond. "Keith Runcorn". Awards & Medals. European Geosciences Union. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
- Powell, Timothy E.; Thibeaud, Caroline, eds. (2002). Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Stanley Keith Runcorn FRS (1922-1995), geophysicist (PDF) 1. NCUACS catalogue no. 104/3/02. College Archives, Imperial College London.
- Powell, Timothy E.; Thibeaud, Caroline, eds. (2002). Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Stanley Keith Runcorn FRS (1922-1995), geophysicist (PDF) 2. NCUACS catalogue no. 104/3/02. College Archives, Imperial College London.
- Powell, Timothy E.; Thibeaud, Caroline, eds. (2002). Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Stanley Keith Runcorn FRS (1922-1995), geophysicist (PDF) 3. NCUACS catalogue no. 104/3/02. College Archives, Imperial College London.
- "Biography: Stanley Keith Runcorn (1922-1955)". The Vetlesen Prize. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. 2004. Retrieved 21 October 2011.