University of Delaware
Renowned oceanographer Walter Munk, "the Einstein of the Oceans," will speak April 25 at UD.

April 25: Oceanographer to speak

Renowned scientist Walter Munk, 'Einstein of the Oceans,' to speak at UD


2:05 p.m., March 22, 2016--Renowned oceanographer Walter Munk will discuss his more than 75 years of scientific discovery and research in ocean sciences, ocean sound transmission and climate change, during a special guest lecture on Monday, April 25.

Hosted by University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, the event will take place from 4:30-6 p.m. in Mitchell Hall.

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UD Acting President Nancy Targett will kick off the evening by welcoming Munk — considered by many to be “the Einstein of the Oceans” — to campus.

Best-selling science author and journalist Chris Mooney will lead an on-stage interview with Munk following his talk, to explore topics in climate change, science communication and the role of higher education. 

The event is free and open to the public, however pre-registration is encouraged for planning purposes. To register, click here. Entry at the door will be permitted.

About Walter Munk

Walter Munk was born to a wealthy banking family in Vienna, Austria, in 1917. He came to the United States to attend school in upstate New York in 1932. Munk subsequently spent several years in banking while attending night classes at Colombia University, before relocating to California to study applied physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Munk earned his bachelor's degree in physics at Caltech in 1939. That summer, he began working for Scripps Intuition of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), while continuing at Caltech for his master's degree in geophysics. He completed his master's at Caltech in 1940 and earned a doctoral degree in oceanography at Scripps in 1945.

During his early career Munk and colleagues from Scripps developed amphibious warfare methods at the U.S. Navy Radio and Sound Laboratory, including wave prediction methods used during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. 

He has conducted pioneering research in ocean sound transmission, deep-sea tides and climate change, and his groundbreaking studies of ocean currents and wave propagation are said to have laid the foundation for the study of oceanography. 

Munk helped to establish the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at Scripps, a center that has produced leading researchers in groundbreaking areas spanning earthquakes to geomagnetism and other Earth processes. Additionally, his work on the Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiments (MODE) in the 1960s and ’70s significantly improved the accuracy of tide prediction.

By 1975 Munk was experimenting with using sound waves to generate images of the ocean, known as acoustic tomography. Among his career achievements, Munk travelled to Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean in 1991 to test long-range sound signals in the ocean. The experiment, which was designed to determine if sound generated by instruments there could be heard by receivers in other areas of the world, became known as the “sound heard around the world” when it was heard thousands of miles away in Bermuda.

Throughout his career Munk has received many accolades, including the Alexander Agassiz Medal (1977), the National Medal of Science (1985), the William Bowie Medal (1989), the Vetlesen Prize (1993), the Kyoto Prize (1999) and the Crafoord Prize (2010).

At UD, Munk helped found the Physical Ocean Science and Engineering (POSE) program, a multidisciplinary academic program designed to provide students a strong foundation in physical oceanography as well as opportunities to acquire state-of-the-art observing and modeling skills while working closely with POSE faculty.

Today, at age 98, Munk resides in La Jolla, California, and continues to conduct research as an emeritus professor of geophysics and the Secretary of the Navy Chair in Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His current projects focus on wind and waves, among other things.

About Chris Mooney

Chris Mooney is an energy and environment reporter with the Washington Post. A highly regarded writer, public speaker and science communicator, Mooney is known for commenting on the intersection between science and politics. He is the author of four books about science and climate change.

About the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment

UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) strives to reach a deeper understanding of the planet and improve stewardship of environmental resources. CEOE faculty and students examine complex information from multiple disciplines with the knowledge that science and society are firmly linked and solutions to environmental challenges can be synonymous with positive economic impact.

The college comprises the School of Marine Science and Policy, Department of Geography and Department of Geological Sciences.

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April 2016 is Arctic Month at the University of Delaware. Lectures, films, exhibits, and more will draw on the expertise of faculty conducting research in this region of the world, and will showcase University resources and collections. See more details about Arctic Month online.

Article by Karen B. Roberts

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