Press Release
Announcing the Winner of the 1974 Vetlesen Prize
Office of Public Information
Columbia University
New York, New York 10027
Telephone: (212) 2805496
FOR USE ON FRIDAY, JULY 19, 1974
Fred Knubel, Director
Chaim Leib Perkeris, the mathematician and educator, has won
Columbia University's 1974 Vetlesen Prize in the earth sciences,
it was announced yesterday (Thursday) by Columbia President
William J. McGill.
Dr. Pekeris was cited as "an outstanding pioneer in the
application of advanced methods of applied mathematics to
the solution of a wide range of fundamental geological and
geophysical problems." Dr. Pekeris is Distinguished Institute
Professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovoth,
Israel.
The Vetlesen Prize  a gold medal and $25,000 recognizes "achievement in the sciences resulting in a clearer understanding
of the earth, its history, or its relation to the universe."
It has been called the Nobel Prize of the earth sciences.
Dr. Pekeris is known for his studies of convection within
the earth, propagation of sound in layered media, tides computed
on a global scale and certain properties of the helium atom.
His work on the modes of free oscillation of the earth, the
Vetlesen jury noted, "will certainly become a classic."
He has also worked on the quantum theory of twoatom molecules
and the theory of the earth's magnetic field.
With his associates at the Weizmann Institute, Dr. Pekeris
designed and constructed three computers, among the fastest
in the world of their type and, the jury stated, "uniquely
fitted for geophysical problems."
Among earlier papers was his study of convective motion within
the earth and his classic paper on the "Theory of Propagation
of Explosive Sound in Shallow Water," in Memoir 27 of
the Geological Society of America published in 1948, which
has guided much later research in seismology.
In 1959, with Alterman and Jarosch, Dr. Pekeris calculated
the frequencies at which the earth vibrates when jarred by
earthquakes. These calculations, the most detailed of their
kind, provided a foundation for rapid advances in seismological
science and have been of particular importance in the determination
of the structure of the crust and mantle of the earth and
in distinguishing atomic explosions from earthquakes. His
computed frequencies were confirmed by the analysis of the
waves of the great Chilean earthquake of 1960.
Also in 1959, with Dr. M. Dishon, an associate at the Institute
he computed heights and times of the occurrence of ocean tides
on a global basis. The calculation was performed on the computers
at the Weizmann Institute.
Dr. Pekeris has lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad
and is the author of numerous scientific papers. He was elected
to the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) in 1952, Foreign
Associate of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1964, won the
1966 Rothschild Prize in Mathematics and, in 1971, was elected
foreign and honorary member of the American Academy of Arts
and Sciences.
A U.S. citizen, Dr. Pekeris took up residence in Israel in
1948 and joined the Weizmann Institute as head of its Department
of Applied Mathematics in 1949. He relinquished this post
in 1973 when he was honored by the school with the title Distinguished
Institute Professor.
Born in Alytus, Lithuania, June 15, 1908, Dr. Pekeris earned
the B.S. in 1929 and the Sc.D. in 1933, both at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, where he was a Guggenheim Fellow
from 1929 to 1931. For two years he was a Fellow in Geophysics
of the General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation
 in 193435 at M.I.T. and in 193536 at the University of
Cambridge, England. From 1936 to 1940 he was a research associate
at M.I.T. and in 194041 taught geophysics there. In 1941
he became a staff member of the Division of War Research at
Columbia University, and in 1945 he was named director of
the University's Mathematical Physics Group. He held this
post until his move to Israel in 1948.
The 1972 Vetlesen Prize winner was William A. Fowler, physicist
at the California Institute of Technology. Other winners were:
in 1971, S. Keith Runcorn, Allan V. Cox and Richard R. Doell;
in 1968, Francis Birch and Sir Edward C. Bullard; in 1966,
Jan Hendrik Oort; in 1964, Arthur Holmes and Pentti Eelis
Eskola; in 1962, Sir Harold Jeffreys and Felix A. Vening Meinesz,
and in 1960, Maurice Ewing.
The 1974 Vetlesen Prize will be presented to Dr. Pekeris at
an awards dinner in New York on October 24
