For Renowned Scripps
2011 Was a Rewarding Year
Honorary doctorate, Milankovitch Medal
awarded to Wolf Berger
Scripps Institution of
Oceanography/University of California, San Diego
career of achievements landed Wolf Berger, an oceanographer, author and former
director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, new honors from
two organizations this year.
May, Germany’s University of Bremen, where Berger had served as a guest
professor for nearly 20 years, awarded an honorary doctorate to Berger. In fall
the European Geosciences Union (EGU) announced that Berger would receive the
2012 Milutin Milankovich Medal.
“Milutin Milankovitch is one of my heroes, but
he is not everyone's idea of a role model,” said Berger. “He explained things
about climate change that had not been observed or documented in his time, and
he did so with a strong sense of purpose, without much regard to the criticisms
leveled against his studies, criticisms by well-known geologists at the time.
It was his good fortune that his ideas proved mainly correct, many decades
later, and those of his many critics proved wrong.”
Since receiving his doctorate from
Scripps in 1968, Berger’s research has touched on multiple disciplines ranging
from geology to climate studies to plankton ecology. His work on the selective preservation of
calcareous fossils on the deep-sea floor had wide-ranging implications and
ramifications for the understanding of the carbon cycle in the sea, and its
link into climate variations. In
addition to his studies, Berger is the author of the widely used textbook The Sea Floor and a popular book, Walk along the Ocean, about the
shoreline of San Diego’s North County and is widely credited as an ambassador
“He has made a particularly outstanding career
in outreach and scientific communication by explaining scientific thinking,
scientific concepts and results to all sorts of audiences from children to
policy makers through books, lectures and essays,” said the EGU.
Berger’s Milutin Milankovic Medal citation
states that it was awarded to him “for his pioneering contributions to
understanding the imprint of orbital forcing on the marine carbonate system and
its interaction with atmospheric CO2 concentration and for his
groundbreaking studies on isotope geochemistry.”
A native of Erlangen, Germany, Berger
came to the United States as an exchange student at the University of Colorado.
He received an MS in geology from that university in 1963, and a PhD in
oceanography at Scripps in 1968. That year, he was appointed an assistant
research oceanographer at Scripps and an assistant professor of oceanography at
San Diego State University. He held both positions until 1970 when he returned
to Germany to serve as an assistant research scientist in geology at the Universität
In 1971, Berger rejoined Scripps. He
served as chair of the Geosciences Research Division in 1994-1996. He stepped
down from that position when he was named interim director of Scripps in
September 1996. He held that position until December 1997 when Charles Kennel
was appointed Scripps director.
In January 1998 Berger was appointed
director of the California Space Institute, a statewide education and research
center at UCSD. In this position, he oversees basic and applied research in
many interdisciplinary, space-related fields at UCSD and other UC campuses.
The Solana Beach resident will receive
the Milankovich Medal in April at the EGU General Assembly. The award is named
for Milutin Milankovich, a 20th Century Serbian geophysicist whose
work established the relationship between Earth’s climate throughout history
and periodic fluctuations in its orbit.
-- Robert Monroe
February 29, 2012