The Vetlesen Prize was established in 1959 by The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation. The prize is awarded for scientific achievement resulting in a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history, or its relations to the universe and is administered by Columbia University’s Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory. The Vetlesen Prize was designed to be the “Nobel Prize” of the Earth sciences and is acknowledged as the premier prize in this area.


Competition for the Vetlesen Prize is open to any person anywhere in the world.


Scientific achievement resulting in a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history or its relation to the universe.


A five-member jury, appointed by the President of Columbia University.


The prize is awarded on the average of once every three years, if the jury selects at least one worthy candidate during this period.

The prize

Consists of a cash award of $250,000, a medal, and travel expenses for the awardee and the awardee’s spouse or other family member, if the awardee lives outside the New York City area.

Vetlesen Lecture

The awardee is invited to give a Vetlesen Prize lecture at Columbia University on the subject of his or her choice at a banquet co-hosted by The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.  The Vetlesen Prize is awarded publicly following the lecture.