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Columbia Scientist Wally Broecker Awarded 2006 Crafoord Prize in Geosciences
Award considered the Nobel Prize of geosciences,
recognizes pioneering research on the global carbon cycle

Wallace Broecker
Wallace Broecker

Wallace Broecker, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia was awarded the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The prize is widely regarded as the discipline's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. In its citation the Academy noted Broecker's "innovative and pioneering research on the operation of the global carbon cycle within the ocean-atmosphere- biosphere system, and its interaction with climate."

"I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to bring greater recognition to the field I love so much," said Broecker. "There has never been a more important time for people to focus their attention on climate change and to take definitive action at all levels to prevent disastrous human intervention with the Earth's natural systems."

Broecker, a resident of Closter, N.J., was born November 29, 1931, in Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree in physics at Columbia College in 1953 and went on to receive his Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University in 1958. Broecker joined the Columbia faculty in 1959 and has remained there to this day.

As a young graduate student at Lamont-Doherty, Broecker was inspired by the late Maurice W. Ewing, the founding director of the Observatory. He began his scientific career with a study of the geological and oceanographic applications of radioactive carbon-14 -- the beginning of a long path of research along which he has made many pioneering discoveries that have had a profound impact on our understanding of the ocean, as well as of its role in global climate change. His research has been instrumental in developing the use of a wide range of geochemical tracers to describe the basic biological, chemical and physical processes that govern the behavior of carbon dioxide in the oceans, and its interactions with the atmosphere.

Broecker has also played an active role in the environmental policy debate. He has been a leading voice warning of the potential danger of increased greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere. He has written articles for the popular press, testified before Congressional committees and briefed officials at the highest levels of government in an effort to bring scientific insights to bear on policy issues.

A prolific researcher, teacher and author, Broecker has also published more than 400 scientific articles and is the author or coauthor of several textbooks. Among his many awards and citations, Broecker was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1979. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of both the American and European Geophysical Unions. In 1996, he was presented with the National Medal of Science by President Bill Clinton.

"This award is clear proof that global society recognizes and appreciates the magnitude of Wally's contributions to science," said Michael Purdy, Director of Lamont-Doherty. "As the nation awakens to the critical importance of climate science, it is fitting that this most prestigious award be given to the world's greatest pioneer of climate research, someone who, for decades, has led the understanding of how and why our planet is continuously changing."

For more information about the prize and Broecker's pioneering research, visit the Crafoord Prize Web site.

This story appears courtesy of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Published: Jan 18, 2006
Last modified: Jan 30, 2007