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Dr. Pekeris Winner of 1974 ‘nobel Prize’ of Earth Sciences

July 30, 1974
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Dr. Chaim Leib Pekeris, founder of the Applied Mathematics Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, has been awarded Columbia University’s 1974 Vetlesen Prize in the Earth Sciences–called the Nobel Prize of the earth sciences. in announcing the award, Columbia University president Dr. William J. McGill. cited Dr. Pekeris “as an outstanding pioneer in the application of advanced methods of applied mathematics to the solution of a wide range of fundamental geological and geophysical problems.”

The award consists of a gold medal and $25,000; both will be presented to Dr. Pekeris at a dinner in New York on Oct. 24. The Vetlesen Prize, established at Columbia University in 1960 by the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, recognize “achievement in the sciences resulting in a clearer understanding of the earth. its history, or its relation to the universe.” Awarded every, two years when there are worthy candidates, the Vetlesen Prize has been called the Nobel Prize of the Earth Sciences, because there are no Nobel Prizes in earth science.

Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics of the Weizmann Institute of Science from 1949 to 1973, Dr. Pekeris, now 67 years old, is Distinguished Institute Professor there. He came to the Weismann Institute of Science in 1949 at the invitation of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, after a distinguished scientific career in the United States.

In announcing the award, Columbia University said that the Vetlesen Jury termed Dr. Pekeris’ work in computing the frequencies at which the earth vibrates during earthquakes a “classic.” His paper on the “Theory of Propagation of Explosive Sound in Shallow Water” published in 1948, has guided much later research in seismology.

In 1949 Dr. Pekeris organized a geophysical survey of Israel pinpointing the possible existence of oil, which has since been prospected. He also helped to discover important underground water sources in Israel. In 1957 he completed the gravimeter survey of Israel and established the Israel Geophysical Institute.

Born in Alysus, Lithuania, he received his Doctor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He later Joined the faculty of MIT serving there from 1937 to 1941. Subsequently he headed the Mathematical Physics Group of the Division of War Research at Columbia University, (1941-1946). From 1946 to 1948 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Dr. Pekeris has made major scientific contributions in the fields of geophysics, meteorology, seismology, astrophysics, mathematical physics and hydrodynamics, in 1965, Brandeis awarded him an honorary degree. In 1966 he received the Rothschild Prize in Mathematics.

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