One of the founders of modern paleooceanography, John Imbrie is the Henry L. Doherty Professor of Oceanography Emeritus at Brown, where he has taught since 1967. He earned his B.A. from Princeton in 1948, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale in 1949 and 1951, respectively. Before moving to Brown, Imbrie taught at Columbia University from 1952 to 1967, starting as assistant professor and ultimately becoming chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences.
Dr. Imbrie pioneered the use of computers to analyze microscopic marine fossil data. In the early seventies, he led an international research effort that solved the longstanding mystery of what caused the Earth’s great ice ages. Using marine fossils in ocean sediments to unravel the history of the Earth’s oceans and climate, Imbrie helped confirm the theory that the Earth’s irregular orbital motions accounted for the climatic changes that caused vast ice sheets to wax and wane on Earth over the past million years.
In addition to more than 60 articles in scientific journals dealing with the Earth’s past climate, Imbrie has published four books, including Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery, which he wrote with his daughter Katherine, and which won the 1976 Phi Beta Kappa prize.
Dr. Imbrie was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978, and in 1981 was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the American Philosophical Society, the American Meteorological Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition to the Vetlesen Prize, Imbrie was honored with the American Geophysical Union’s Maurice Ewing Medal in 1986, the Lyell Medal for Geology of the Geological Society of London in 1991, and, in 1999, the Vega Medal of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography. He has also served on numerous national and international scientific advisory committees.