Felix Andries Vening Meinesz


Photo of Felix Andries Vening Meinesz(1887-1966)
Felix Andries Vening Meinesz was born on July 30, 1887 near The Hague, the son of lawyer S.A. Vening Meinesz, mayor of Rotterdam and later of Amsterdam. He studied civil engineering at the Delft Institute of Technology, graduating in 1910 and receiving his doctorate in 1915. Engaged as a government engineer, Vening Meinesz took gravimetric measurements at over 50 sites in the Netherlands. He was a professor at both the State University of Utrecht (between 1927 and 1957), and the Delft Institute of Technology (1938 to 1957).
Between 1923 and 1939 Vening Meinesz undertook a dozen scientific expeditions in submarines. It was in the stable environment of a submarine that he discovered a method of making very precise gravity measurements. The measurements he made there would have important repercussions in the fields of geophysics and geodesy.
Vening Meinesz developed a device which measured the mean periods of two pendulums swinging from the same apparatus. Since the mean of the two periods is not affected by disturbances in the horizontal plane, it can be used to determine the local gravitational force accurately.
Vening Meinesz discovered that measurements of the Earth's gravitational field could yield indications of its internal features. He was thus able to discount the model of the Earth's shape that proposed a flattening at the equator.
Over the course of his scientific career Vening Meinesz joined many scientific societies and received many honors. He served as President of the International Association for Geodesy, of the International Union for Geodesy and Geophysics, and of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute; was elected into the Dutch Society of Sciences, the Royal Academy of Sciences, the Royal Meteorological Society of London, the Geological Society of America, and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, among many others; and received the Howard N. Potts Medal of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America, the Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union and the Agassiz Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington; and, in 1933, was designated Knight In the Order of the Dutch Lion by Royal Decree.