University of California, Berkeley, hydrologist Luna Bergere Leopold, a giant in the field of river studies who had a profound influence on nationwide efforts to restore and protect rivers and daylight urban creeks, died February 23, 2006, at the age of 90. Leopold, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of earth and planetary science and of landscape architecture, succumbed to heart and lung failure at his home in Berkeley.
The son of famed environmentalist Aldo Leopold, who often was called the father of wildlife ecology, Leopold was the first to turn a scientific eye on rivers and streams and draw conclusions about their form and evolution. Long before fractals became an everyday word, he realized the similarity between large- and small-scale characteristics of streams. “He made crucial discoveries about the nature of rivers, especially their remarkable regularity,” said William Dietrich, a UC Berkeley colleague of Leopold’s and a professor of earth and planetary science. “He showed that this regularity of form applies to all rivers, whether they are in sand boxes or draining entire continents, at scales of a laboratory flume or the Gulf Stream.”
Leopold was a “quantifier” who took notes on the natural world and wrote papers on everything from Hawaiian dew to energy expenditures in rivers, and even on the esthetic value of rivers, said Dietrich. “He was a clear voice and advocate for ethics in science and a defender of the value of esthetics as a reason to protect the natural world, even going so far as to propose a quantification of esthetics,” he said.
Leopold was preceded in death by his wife of 30 years, Barbara Beck (Nelson) Leopold, who died in 2004. He is survived by his first wife, Carolyn Leopold Michaels of Rockville, Md., and four children—Bruce Leopold of Baltimore, Md.; Madelyn Leopold of Madison, Wisc.; stepson T. Leverett Nelson of Chicago; and stepdaughter Carolyn T. Nelson of Madison. He also leaves behind three siblings—Nina Leopold Bradley of Baraboo, Wisc.; A. Carl Leopold of Ithaca, N.Y.; and Estella B. Leopold of Seattle, Wash. His brother, A. Starker Leopold, died in 1983.