Walter Munk, considered by many to be one of the world's greatest living oceanog-raphers, will be awarded the inaugural Prince Albert I Medal from the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO). Munk, who has been affiliated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography since 1940, is a professor of geophysics and holds a Secretary of the Navy/Chief of Naval Operations Oceanography Chair at the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Institution. He is the first recipient of this prestigious prize.
Munk is being honored "for a half century of superb science and discoveries in physical oceanography." He will receive the award at the IAPSO/IABO Joint Assembly in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in October 2001.
Prince Rainier of Monaco, in partnership with IAPSO, established the Prince Albert I Medal in the physical sciences of the oceans. The award is named in honor of the late
Prince Albert I of Monaco, a devoted participant in early oceanographic research, who, in 1919, organized the Oceanography Section of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics and other international ocean research organizations.
Walter Munk received a Ph.D. in oceanography in 1947 from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and has spent his entire professional career at Scripps Institution. In 1947 he became an assistant professor. In 1954 he became a professor of geophysics and also was named a member of the UC's Institute of Geophysics, and, in 1960, he established a branch of the institute on the Scripps campus in La Jolla. Until 1982, he served as director of the Scripps branch and as an associate director of the universitywide institute, which was renamed the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP).
During World War II, Munk and Harald U. Sverdrup, then director of Scripps Institution, developed a system for forecasting breakers and surf on beaches, a technique of crucial importance in military amphibious landings. During the 1946 testing of nuclear weapons at
Bikini Atoll in the southern Pacific Ocean, he participated in analysis of the currents and diffusion in the lagoon and the water exchange with the open seas.
In 1963, Munk led a study of attenuation in ocean swells generated in Antarctica.
The program measured fluctuations with pressure sensing devices lowered to the ocean floor. Measurements also were made at six Pacific Ocean locations and from FLIP, the Floating Instrument Platform, developed at Scripps.
In 1969 he began measuring tides in the deep sea, using highly sophisticated pressure-sensing instruments that were dropped to the ocean floor and retrieved by acoustic release. With Frank E. Snodgrass, Munk received the first award for ocean science and engineering given by the Marine Technology Society.
Throughout the 1990s Munk played a lead role in developing a new method for tracking long-term changes in climate associated with global warming as part of the Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) project. The idea behind ATOC is to send sound signals from underwater speakers and track how long it takes them to reach receivers moored to the floor of the Pacific thousands of miles away. Because sound travels faster in warmer water than cooler water, a long-term series of tests that recorded increasingly faster travel times would indicate the ocean is warming.
Munk was been honored with numerous awards. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1956 and to the Royal Society of London in 1976. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow three times. In 1965 he received the Arthur L. Day Medal from the Geological Society
of America, and in 1966 he received the Sverdrup Gold Medal of the American Meteorological Society. He received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London in 1968.
In 1976, he received the first Maurice Ewing Medal sponsored by the American Geophysical Union and the U.S. Navy. In 1977 he received the Alexander Agassiz Gold Medal of the National Academy of Sciences. Munk was honored with the 1999 Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences for his fundamental contributions to the field of oceanography. This was the first time the prize was awarded to an oceanographer. The Navy League of the United States honored Munk with the 2001 Albert A. Michelson Award for research that has significantly improved the nation's maritime forces or the U.S. industrial technology base. Since 1968 he has been a member of JASON, a prestigious panel of military advisors.
Munk and his wife, Judith, live in La Jolla, Calif.
IAPSO is one of seven Associations of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. IAPSO has the prime goal of "promoting the study of scientific problems relating
to the oceans and the interactions taking places at the sea floor, coastal, and atmospheric boundaries insofar as such research is conducted by the use of mathematics, physics,
and chemistry. Modern oceanography had its beginnings with 18th century ocean exploration voyages, and the history of IAPSO dates from the early years of the 20th century.
Prince Albert I of Monaco had an early interest in the sea and had entered into a naval career as a young man, serving in both the French and Spanish navies. After seeing the results
of recent oceanographic voyages in an exhibition in the Paris Museum, Prince Albert made a decision in 1884 to devote his time and resources to oceanography. During the next 30 years he financed the construction or acquisition of a series of four vessels which he used for oceanographic cruises. Prince Albert's last voyage ended in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I. Following the war, he sought to establish new international organizations dedicated to oceanographic research.