Friday August 22, 2014 Site Updated: June 26, 2014 Doron Nof, Ph.D.
Distinguished Nansen Professor of Physical Oceanography
(850) 644-2736
Mailing Address: Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
419, 117 N. Woodward Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32306
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Florida State University

 

 

Nansen Professorship

The professorship is named after Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) and is different from the Nansen Medal Dr. Nof received in 2005.

Nansen was a scientist, explorer, author, athlete, statesman and a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize. He is credited with the first observation (made from the vessel Fram) that ice packs drifted at approximately 30 degrees to the right of the wind direction. He correctly interpreted this as the effect of the earth's rotation and this laid the foundation for the mathematical solution later derived by Ekman. The solution - the Ekman spiral - describes the turning of the velocity vector with depth and is the foundation of modern wind-driven ocean circulation.

Nansen was also the first to cross Greenland on skis. Although he initially declined to participate in efforts to install him as the Norwegian prime minister, he later used his heroic national and international reputation to become a diplomat and advance the cause of refugees worldwide. He received the Nobel Prize for Humanitarian Activities in 1922.


Speaking about the history of oceanography, it is perhaps appropriate to point out that Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the first oceanographer. Although most people are aware of his incredible paintings and his basic scientific ideas regarding such concepts as the rotation of the earth around the sun and the reflection of sunlight from the moon, da Vinci was also the first to recognize some of the principles that govern ocean currents. He was the first to recognize that the atmosphere and ocean are coupled in the sense that they are two fluids moving on top of each other so that the air currents are causing the water to move. He was also the first to talk about vortices and whirlpools. He somehow understood much of the underlying physics well before the idea of gravity was formulated by Newton centuries later. Furthermore, he clearly understood that science should be formulated in mathematical laws and was the first to doubt the prevailing explanation for the finding of shells 300 miles away from the coastline. (The common idea at the time was that they were carried there by the Great Biblical Flood. Da Vinci doubted the possibility of a single worldwide flood, noting that there was no place where the receding water could go to.) On top of all of this, Da Vinci was the first to conceive the idea of the snorkel and the scuba tank both of which are essential to some aspects of modern day oceanography.

More information about Fridtjof Nansen and the 2005 EGU Fridtjof Nansen Medal.

 

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