Academy of Distinguished Alumni

John A. Cherry

John A. Cherry Ph.D., N.A.E.

Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni on

John Cherry received his M.S. degree (1965) in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. His graduate school focus was in geological engineering. He also received a B.S. degree (1964) in Civil Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and a Ph.D. degree (1970) in hydrogeology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Professor Cherry spent most of his career, from 1971-2006, as a Professor of Hydrogeology at the University of Waterloo. Since 2006, he is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Waterloo and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering, University of Guelph.

Dr. Cherry is one of the world's preeminent contaminant hydrogeologists. His groundbreaking research in 1978 at the Canadian Forces Base Borden Groundwater Field Research Facility formed the worldwide basis for development of criteria for selecting sites for the safe land-based disposal of wastes. His research on the characterization, fate, transport, and remediation of dense non-aqueous phase organic liquids (DNAPLs) released to the subsurface provided the earliest fundamental knowledge identifying approaches and challenges to the environmental restoration of sites impacted by these contaminants. In 1987, he founded the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Research. Currently comprising of 16 universities, the Consortium supports leading-edge research on the fate, transport, characterization and remediation of organic contaminants in the subsurface in both unconsolidated (alluvial aquifers) and fractured bedrock geologies. Publications authored or co-authored by Professor Cherry, and by his many students and colleagues, are widely cited and form the basis for modern conceptual models of the fate of all chemicals in aquifers.

In 1979, Professor Cherry co-authored the first edition of the seminal textbook Groundwater with Professor R. Allan Freeze, perhaps the most widely used and referenced textbook on the subject. This text has been translated into more than six languages and is freely available for download. In 2017, Dr. Cherry formed “The Groundwater Project,” a not for profit committed to the advancement and synthesis of groundwater knowledge for understanding and problem solving. Hundreds of participants from many countries across the globe are preparing digital books that synthesize the science for learning purposes along with supporting materials, provided free-of-charge for download at  

In 2013, Professor Cherry was elected a Foreign Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. In 2016, he received the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, and in 2020 the Stockholm Water Prize. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Professor Cherry has contributed over the years to Berkeley through invited campus seminars and lectures.