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G. Michael Purdy, Director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Awarded 2006 Maurice Ewing Medal

G. Michael Purdy was honored by the American Geophysical Union for his more than 30-year commitment as a researcher, administrator and innovator in the earth sciences.

Photo credit: Doug Brusa

G. Michael Purdy, director of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, received the 2006 Maurice Ewing Medal at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco on December 13, 2006. In its citation, AGU said the award recognizes Purdy's "significant and original contributions to our understanding of oceanic crustal structure and as a developer of new geophysical instrumentation for use in the deep sea."

"I share this honor with all my research assistants, technicians, engineers, colleagues, students and post docs — without whom none of the research or other accomplishments associated with my name would have been possible," Purdy said in his acceptance speech.

Purdy received his doctorate in marine geophysics from the University of Cambridge in 1974 and afterwards joined Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts as a postdoctoral scholar. In 1991 he became chairman of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at WHOI and spent four years gaining experience in both national and international marine science planning and administration.

In 1995, Purdy became director of the Division of Ocean Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he spent five years managing an annual budget of more than $200 million — the primary source of funding for ocean science research by U.S. universities. While at NSF, he established a multi-disciplinary research program, "Life in Extreme Environments," and built several valuable, interagency collaborations.

In 2000, Purdy joined Columbia University as the director of Lamont-Doherty, the single largest unit of The Earth Institute of Columbia University and a world-renowned center specializing in research of the Earth's geology, atmosphere, oceans and climate. In this position, his primary goal has been to build a first-class interdisciplinary research institution that leads the world, not only in the quality of its research, but also in its ability to affect issues of social importance.

"Mike Purdy is a wonderful recipient of this great and prestigious award," said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute. "His commitment to science is an inspiration for all his colleagues, and his leadership of Lamont-Doherty is consistently superb. We are grateful to Mike for all that he contributes and warmly congratulate him on this honor."

Purdy has participated in more than 40 research cruises during his career, spending a total of nearly three years at sea, and is author or co-author of more than 60 research articles in peer reviewed journals, more than 20 other reports and articles, and more than 100 published conference abstracts.

The Ewing Medal was established in 1974 and is named after the founding director of Lamont-Doherty, William Maurice "Doc" Ewing. It is sponsored jointly by AGU, a nonprofit scientific organization with a membership of more than 41,000 earth and planetary scientists from 130 countries, and the U.S. Navy.

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is one of the world's leading research centers examining the planet from its core to its atmosphere, across every continent and every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental hazards and beyond, Observatory scientists provide the basic knowledge of Earth systems needed to inform the future health and habitability of our planet.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor.