"Hydrology remains a hybrid between the art and the science," wrote Robert L Smith in 1990
Water Resource Pioneer
Professor Robert L Smith (1923-1995) was a pioneer in water resource development, an educator, and a practicing engineer. He successfully applied engineering methods to water resource planning and policy development. Instrumental in shaping water policy for the states of Kansas and Iowa, his pioneering studies became the model for other states around the United States.
He served as the Presidential Science Adviser for water resources for President Lyndon Johnson and his work on water availability has been used in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and nine foreign countries.
In 1990, he received the Ray K. Linsley Award. Established in 1986, this recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions in surface water hydrology. Dr. Linsley made numerous contributions to surface water hydrology and was the principal author of the textbook, Applied Hydrology, published by McGraw-Hill in 1949.
Good Theory is Good Practice
In his acceptance speech, Robert L Smith stated that: “This brings me to the major lesson I have gleaned from my experiences in the hydrologic arena. It’s a point I’ve long tried to instill in students and a concept that has stood the test of time for me.”
“First, always remember that good theory is good practice. Hydrology remains a hybrid between the art and the science. Nonetheless, good practice of the art is dependent on understanding the theory of the science; not the reverse.”
Become Fundamentally Sound in the Theory
“The second observation is this,” continued Robert L Smith. “The challenge of hydrology, the technical romance if you would, resides in the fact that you are forever dealing with uncertain boundary conditions.”
“You never see the exact same problem twice owing to variations in geology, precipitation patterns, antecedent histories, etc., etc., etc. Don’t fear this situation. Become fundamentally sound in the theory, and your ability to accept and adjust for uncertainty in boundary conditions will reflect good judgement.”
“Hydrology remains one of the few opportunities in technology where one’s diagnostic capability is put to the test of both theory and experience – enjoy it as long as you can.”
To Learn More:
To download a copy of the acceptance speech by Robert L Smith, click here.
“Ray Linsley was a true giant of the profession. The citation upon his election to the National Academy of Engineering read, for ‘leadership in hydrology and water resources planning through distinguished teaching, research, professional practice and service to the government.’ It could not have been stated better,” wrote Robert L Smith in A Memorial Tribute to Ray Linsley in 1992.