UC San Diego icon Walter Munk to receive Roger Revelle Medal

Walter Munk. CREDIT Erik Jepsen
Walter Munk. CREDIT Erik Jepsen

From UCSD Reports

World-renowned oceanographer Walter Munk is already an icon at the University of California, San Diego. Now, he is the recipient of an award named for another iconic campus leader — the “father” of UCSD, Roger Revelle. As part of UCSD’s Founders’ Celebration Dinner on November 16, 2013, Munk will receive the prestigious Roger Revelle Medal in honor of his achievements and impact in advancing the UCSD mission.

Walter Munk. CREDIT Erik Jepsen

The Revelle Medal — revived by Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla — recognizes current and former UCSD faculty members for sustained, distinguished and extraordinary service to the campus. The award, which has not been given out in a decade, was created in honor of Revelle, who helped establish UCSD during his tenure as director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1950 to 1964.  Revelle placed great emphasis on recruiting top academics to the fledgling campus, which positioned UCSD to become one of the top 10 public universities in the nation.

Sharing Revelle’s passion for faculty excellence, Khosla has updated the Revelle Medal to specifically honor distinctive and visionary faculty leaders. Munk is the first to receive the reinvented Revelle Medal.

“It was Roger Revelle’s vision to create a distinctive university by recruiting exceptional faculty from around the world, and that is what led to UC San Diego’s rise to preeminence,” said Chancellor Khosla. “I cannot think of anyone more fitting to receive the Roger Revelle Medal than Walter Munk.  Through his long and illustrious career, Walter has made remarkable discoveries that have helped position UC San Diego as an international leader in ocean science.”

Commonly referred to as the “greatest living oceanographer,” Munk is widely recognized for his groundbreaking investigations of wave propagation, tides, currents, circulation and other aspects of the ocean and Earth.  The 95-year-old scientist is still active at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. His accomplishments have been recognized by a lengthy list of organizations from around the world. He won the National Medal of Science and the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences. He was the inaugural recipient of the Prince Albert I Medal in the physical sciences of the oceans, which Prince Rainier of Monaco created in cooperation with the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans. Most recently, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Munk’s receipt of the Crafoord Prize.

Yet for Munk, the Roger Revelle Medal is especially meaningful.  “Roger was my best friend and the person who had the greatest influence on my career,” said Munk, who received his Ph.D. in oceanography in 1947 from Scripps, where he went on to spend his entire academic career.

According to Munk, “I got to know Roger best when we spent a year on the Capricorn Expedition.”  As part of the expedition, led by Revelle, the Scripps Oceanography team made tsunami wave observations at Eniwetak atoll.  The scientists then spent a year returning to California by ship, stopping for research along the way — “in Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, the Marquesas and all the other beautiful islands,” recalled Munk.  The team measured heat from the Earth’s core and the thickness of the sedimentary layer on the sea floor, studying plate tectonics during its earliest phases.



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