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Fellows Directory

Robert White

Professor Robert White FRS


Elected: 1994


ORCID B-8453-2015


Robert ‘Bob’ White studies what happens when continental and oceanic plates break apart. He has determined the seismic velocity structure across volcanic margins in the North Atlantic, finding evidence of crustal igneous intrusion and extrusion. He developed new methods of imaging beneath offshore basalt flows to see the structure beneath them. He proposed that volcanic margins develop where upper mantle temperatures are raised over a convective plume (a hotspot) and has thereby been able to explain the distribution of volcanic margins and of flood basalts worldwide.

He has worked on the structure of mid-ocean spreading centres and fracture zones in the deep ocean. With Dan McKenzie FRS, he showed that the geochemistry of oceanic basalts can be combined with geophysical measurements of crustal thickness to constrain the temperature of the mantle from which they were formed. He is currently researching how molten rock is generated beneath the Earth’s major rift zones, particularly in Iceland, using microseismicity to record how melt moves through the crust in dykes and sills before freezing or erupting at the surface.

Professional positions

Professor of Geophysics, Department of Earth Sciences (Bullard Laboratories), University of Cambridge
Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St Edmund's College (Cambridge)

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


continental margins, Earthquakes, geothermal, lava, magmatism, mantle plumes, microseismicity, rifting, Seismology, Volcanology