Lawrence, David M(eade) 1961-
LAWRENCE, David M(eade) 1961-
Born November 12, 1961, in Westover, MA; son of George Marion (a journalist) and Kathleen Marie Lee (a secretary) Lawrence; married Alison M. Sinclair (an environmental planner), October 13, 1991; children: one son, one daughter. Ethnicity: "Mutt: European, Chinese, Mexican." Education: Louisiana State University, Shreveport, B.S. (cum laude; biology), 1983; University of Oklahoma, postgraduate studies in geography, 1983-85; attended Louisiana State University Medical Center, Shreveport, 1986-87; George Mason University, M.S. (geographic and cartographic sciences), 1991; Columbia University, M.S. (journalism), 1998; University of Virginia, enrolled in Ph.D. program (environmental sciences), 1991—. Hobbies and other interests: Dendochronology, ecology, geography, genealogy, history.
Author and journalist.
Authors Guild, Author's League, National Association of Science Writers, Association of American Geographers, Tree-Ring Society.
Moore Award, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, 1993; Southern Festival of Books Award, Fall for the Book Award, Boats, Books, and Brushes Award, Beneath the Sea Award, and Virginia Festival of the Book Award, all 2002, all for Upheaval from the Abyss: Ocean Floor Mapping and the Earth Science Revolution.
Upheaval from the Abyss: Ocean Floor Mapping and the Earth Science Revolution, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2002.
David M. Lawrence combined his interests in biology, geography, journalism, and environmental sciences to produce his 284-page book, Upheaval from the Abyss: Ocean Floor Mapping and the Earth Science Revolution. In addition to his academic studies, Lawrence also worked as a research assistant at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which was the original home of the earth science revolution that overturned the prevailing scientific ideas about the nature of the creation, destruction, and rearrangement of the earth's surface. The researchers there put forth great effort to map the ocean floor and to prove the theory of plate tectonics.
Upheaval from the Abyss begins with a study of Alfred Wegener, the pioneer of the continental drift theory who published a paper in 1912 that demonstrates how fossils on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are remarkably similar. After Wegener's death, his work was derided and nearly discarded until earth scientists began their revolutionary work in the late 1940s.
Lawrence writes about the lives of those scientists who continued Wegener's work, including Maurice "Doc" Ewing, Bruce Heezen, and Marie Tharp. In an interview with Lawrence for the Rutgers University Press Web site, the author described these three personalities in greater detail: Ewing, the founder of the Lamont Geological Observatory—which later became the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory—was the man whose large collection of data ultimately "clinched the scientific case for continental drift and plate tectonics"; Heezen was a promising geology graduate who accepted Ewing's offer to become a research assistant with "oceanic adventure instead of pay"; and Tharp, whose drafting skills were recognized by Ewing, devoted "forty years of her life [to] preparing maps of the world's ocean floor."
Amy Ione in Leonardo Digital Reviews considered Lawrence's book to be a "briskly paced …easy-to-read survey" of the decades-long struggle to comprehend the ocean floor. Lawrence "reminds the reader that the day-to-day experience of discovery includes much more than 'Eureka' moments," she added. Patrick Toscano wrote in Professional Surveyor that Upheaval from the Abyss "is a turbulent story, surprisingly rich with personalities and conflict." He concluded, "Read Lawrence's book as much for the adventure as the science." In a Times Literary Supplement review, Richard Shelton noted that "Lawrence presents his material crisply and directly as a series of adventure stories …and unfolds his scientific theme just as vividly and with all the rigour of the professional scientist." "This is a serviceable book covering the genesis of plate tectonics in a summary fashion," Bernard Coakley noted in his American Scientist article. However, he also called the book "somewhat romanticized." F. T. Manheim felt that Lawrence will enter the ranks of such esteemed science writers as Jared Diamond and Stephen J. Gould; in a Choice review he praised Lawrence for his "breadth of interest, critical eye for unexpected details, and contagious passion for his subjects."
Lawrence told CA: "Despite the scientific advances of the last few centuries, the universe remains mysterious. I cannot resist the urge to solve a mystery—thus, I was called into a scientific career early in my life. But answering questions for myself was not enough. I wanted to share my fascination with our improbable world, first as a teacher, and then as a journalist.
"I knew I wanted to be a scientist early on. The call to journalism came much later. As a teenager, I had grandiose dreams of becoming a 'famous' writer. But, despite displaying what family, friends, and teachers alleged to be signs of skill with the written word, I had no inclination toward doing the work necessary to realize the dreams.
"I did not plan to follow my father into a newsroom. I could never avoid one for long, however. Circumstances—and probably some latent desire—kept me surrounded by newsies, and following a career crisis in my early thirties I realized that I could combine science and journalism into a coherent and satisfying professional life.
"The fusion of my scientific and journalistic skills gave birth to my book, Upheaval from the Abyss. Although published by an academic press, the book is written as a classic narrative, combining a tale of scientific discovery with elements of mystery, adventure, and even love. The narrative, a true story, features heroes and a heroine as large, and often as flawed, as any character from classical mythology.
"My primary influences have been past teachers and mentors. Roosevelt 'Critter' Crosby inspired my fascination with science while I was a student at Oak Terrace Junior High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Laurence Hardy, a professor of biology at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, taught me the discipline required of a scientist and also exposed me to the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics, the development of which I cover in Upheaval from the Abyss. Lonny Lippsett, a fellow science writer, helped me believe in myself during the crisis that led to the genesis of my career as a science writer. Finally, Sam Freedman of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City ran me through his boot camp of a book-writing seminar. Without Sam, my adolescent dreams of writing a book might never have been realized.
"I am a visual writer—I have to see something to write about it. I think the visual approach is evident in Upheaval from the Abyss, as well as in some of my other writings. What I hoped to accomplish with the book is to tell the human side of the story, to put the reader in the field or at sea alongside the scientists whose lives I chronicle. Reason, hypotheses, and experiment are fine topics for study in themselves, but science—as I know from personal experience—is and always will be an endeavor carried out by flesh-and-blood beings."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, July-August, 2002, Bernard Coakley, review of Upheaval from the Abyss: Ocean Floor Mapping and the Earth Science Revolution, pp. 385-87.
Choice, September, 2002, F. T. Manheim, review of Upheaval from the Abyss, p. 133.
Times Literary Supplement, August 2, 2002, Richard Shelton, review of Upheaval from the Abyss, pp. 5-7.
David M. Lawrence Home Page,http://fuzzo.com/ (April 2, 2003).
Leonardo Digital Reviews,http://mitpress2.mit.edu/ejournals/Leonardo/ (April 2, 2003), Amy Ione, review of Upheaval from the Abyss.
Professional Surveyor,http://www.profsurv.com/ (April 2, 2003), Patrick Toscano, review of Upheaval from the Abyss.
Rutgers University Press Web site,http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/ (April 2, 2003), interview with Lawrence.