In Memoriam: Jean Francheteau (1943-2010)
Jean Francheteau died the 21st of July 2010, in St Renan, near Brest, at the age of 67.
Jean Francheteau, after obtaining a diploma of mining engineering at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Métallurgie et de l'Industrie des Mines in Nancy, prepared his PhD at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California in San Diego, between 1966 and 1970. His thesis was entitled « Paleomagnetism and plate tectonics ». Jean Francheteau was thus a priviledged witness and actor in the elaboration of the theory of plate tectonics, which profoundly modified our vision of the shaping of the Earth.
He then joins the French National Center for the Exploration of the Oceans (CNEXO), newly created in Brest in 1969, where he actively participates to the exploration of the ocean floor. He is, for instance, one of the leaders of the FAMOUS expedition (French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Survey [movie about the expedition]) in 1973 and 1974, where the first deep-sea observation were made along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, near the Azores, with the Archimede, Cyana and Alvin submersibles. During these years, was published « Plate Tectonics », a reference text book for many of us that he cosigned with Xavier Le Pichon and Jean Bonnin.
In 1981, Jean Francheteau moves to the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris where he leads the marine geophysics group. He organizes and participates to many oceanographic expeditions along the Pacific spreading ridges during which were discovered the first active mid-oceanic hydrothermal sites and the deep-sea ecosystems that dwell around them and were until then totally unsuspected.
In 1992, Jean becomes Professor of geophysics at the University of Brest, where he joins the Domaines Océaniques laboratory at the European Institute for Marine Sciences (IUEM). He will lead the doctoral school in Marine Sciences from 1999 to 2007. Between 1991 and 1998, he also chairs the research program on spreading ridges at CNRS (INSU). He will continue teaching at the University until his retirement in September 2009.
Still in the United States, Jean Francheteau married with Martha Lerrick in 1970. Moving to the Brest area the same year, they settled and lived until now in Locmaria Plouzané where their five children were born and raised.
Jean Francheteau authored more than 90 papers and text books that remain founding contributions to plate tectonics and modern oceanography. His works cover a broad spectrum of topics and domains in Earth sciences : paleomagnetism, plate kinematics, heat flux, hydrothermalism, structure of the oceanic crust, seafloor spreading processes, structure of rifts and ridges, oceanic fracture zones, seamount and rock magnetism … and many areas of the world : the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Red Sea, the Afar, Tibet, …
Through his research and editorial activities (e.g. for the Geophysical Journal International from 1988 to 2010), Jean had an encyclopedic scientific culture that was sought for by all the colleagues who had the privilege to work on his side. With his ability to collaborate and his willingness to share his data with colleagues around the world and with his scientific stature, Jean Francheteau undoubtedly contributed to the promotion of the French research in oceanography and to its international influence.
Several distinctions honor his scientific contributions and are evidence of his international aura:
o Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (1974)
o Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (1984)
o Silver Medal of CNRS (1982)
o Grand Prize in Marine Sciences (1995) from the French Academy of Sciences
The Geosciences community is not only loosing one of his great scientists, but also a highly regarded colleague and friend.
See also the tribute of Xavier Le Pichon on the INSU/CNRS web site (in French).