Alexander Agassiz Medal

Alexander Agassiz Medal

About the Alexander Agassiz Medal 

Endowed in 1911 by one of the leading scientists of the Challenger Expedition, Sir John Murray, the Alexander Agassiz Medal has been awarded to some of the most outstanding oceanographers in all fields since 1913. Murray established the award to honor his friend, Alexander Agassiz, who served as president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1901 to 1907. The Alexander Agassiz Medal is awarded for an original contribution in the science of oceanography. The medal is presented every five years and carries with it a prize of $20,000.

Most Recent Recipient

Kirk Byran Jr., NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and Princeton University, received the 2023 Alexander Agassiz Medal.

Bryan’s research with ocean and climate models has advanced the frontiers of understanding of the ocean’s role in Earth’s climate.

Over his career, Bryan’s work has aimed to improve our understanding of ocean sciences. Read more about Bryan's work» 
Watch Inez Fung's acceptance speech on behalf of Kirk Byran Jr.»

Award History

The Alexander Agassiz Medal was first awarded in 1913 to Johan Hjort for his practical oceanographic and fisheries research. Hjort was the first to apply actuarial statistical methods to study causes of the large fluctuations of fish populations. Hjort's studies culminated in the 1914 article "Fluctuations in the Great Fisheries of Northern Europe," which was a pivotal work in the development of fisheries science. Over the past 100 years the Alexander Agassiz Medal has continued to recognize many outstanding oceanographers. Previous recipients of the Alexander Agassiz Medal continue to achieve outstanding advancements in their fields. Seven recipients have been honored with a National Medal of Science.


Kirk Byran Jr. (2023)
For pioneering and visionary scientific research with ocean and climate models, for establishing their physical and numerical foundations and applications, for deep insights that advanced the frontiers of understanding of the ocean’s role in Earth’s climate, and for decades of generous mentoring of ocean and climate scientists worldwide.
Read more about Bryan's work»
Watch Inez Fung's acceptance speech on behalf of Kirk Byran Jr.»

Dean Roemmich (2018)
For his ground-breaking contributions to research on the circulation and climate variability in the oceans, for research on the global heat and salt budgets of the oceans and for his leadership in the creation of the global ocean climate observatory, Argo.
Read more about Roemmich's work»
Watch Roemmich's acceptance speech»

David M. Karl (2013)
For leadership in establishing multi-disciplinary ocean-observing systems, for detection of decadal regime shifts in pelagic ecosystems, and for paradigm-shifting insights on biogeochemical cycles in the ocean.
Watch Karl's acceptance speech»

Sallie W. Chisholm (2010)
For pioneering studies of the dominant photosynthetic organisms in the sea and for integrating her results into a new understanding of the global ocean.

James R. Ledwell (2007)
For innovative and insightful tracer experiments using sulfur hexafluoride to understand vertical diffusivity and turbulent mixing in the open ocean.

Klaus Wyrtki (2004)
For fundamental contributions to the understanding of the oceanic general circulation of abyssal and thermocline waters and for providing the intellectual underpinning for our understanding of ENSO (El Niño).

Charles S. Cox (2001)
For his pioneering studies, both theoretical and instrumental, of oceanic waves, microstructure and mixing, and of electromagnetic fields in the ocean and in the seafloor.

Walter C. Pitman, III (1998)
For his fundamental contribution to the plate tectonic revolution through insightful analysis of marine magnetic anomalies and for his studies of the causes and effects of sea-level changes.

Victor V. Vacquier (1995)
For his discovery of the flux-gate magnetometer, and for the marine magnetic anomaly surveys that led to the acceptance of the theory of sea-floor spreading.

Joseph L. Reid (1992)
For his exploration and observation of the circulation of the world ocean, assembly of its many interacting parts with a lifetime of care, dedication, and insight.

Cesare Emiliani (1989)
For masterful achievements using isotopic palaeotemperatures to establish the climatic history of the Pleistocene and for suggesting their relation to the Milankovitch orbital cycles.

Wallace S. Broecker (1986)
For his work on chemical exchange among the oceans, atmosphere, and solid Earth, making great contributions to understanding the role of the oceans in the Earth's carbon cycle and its climate.

Henry M. Stommel (1979)
For his work at sea, in the laboratory, and by analyses through which he made major advances in understanding of ocean circulation and distribution of water masses.

Walter H. Munk (1976)
For his outstanding experimental and theoretical research on the spectrum of motion in the oceans and the earth.

John H. Steele (1973)

Seiya Uyeda (1972)
For his contributions to the tectonic and thermal history of the earth and, most notably, the Sea of Japan.

Frederick C. Fuglister B. (1969)
For his stimulating and successful observations of the Gulf Stream and its vortices.

Carl H. Eckart (1966)
For his significant contributions to physical oceanography.

Sir Edward Bullard (1965)
For his significant investigations of the earth from its surface to its core.

Roger R. Revelle (1963)
For his contributions to the understanding of oceanic processes and the geology of the sea floor, and through his research, to the advancement of scientific oceanography throughout the world.

George E. R. Deacon (1962)
For his investigations of the hydrography of the southern ocean.

Anton F. Bruun (1960)
For his leadership in the study of the biology of the deep ocean.

Martin W. Johnson (1959)
For his outstanding leadership in biological and general oceanography. Among Dr. Johnson's contributions are explanations for two newly discovered acoustic phenomena in the sea. These explanations brought biologist and physicists together in a common interest, and introduced underwater acoustics as a prime tool for marine ecology

Alfred C. Redfield (1955)

Maurice Ewing (1954)

H. W. Harvey (1952)

Harry A. Marmer (1951)
For his distinguished contributions in tidal surveys. His projects have made available to oceanographers accurate, long-period records for large areas where previously very little observational data were available. The program and work which he has originated ultimately will produce reliable conclusions on present-day tectonic processes and the rate of change in the quantity of water in the ocean.

Thomas G. Thompson (1948)
For his leadership in investigations of the complex chemistry of the ocean, with special attention to the waters of the north-east Pacific, Puget Sound, and San Juan Archipelago, and the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

Felix A. Vening Meinesz (1947)
For his contributions to oceanography, particularly by his invention of an apparatus for the determination of gravity at sea, by making many measurements of gravity over each of the great oceans, and by the utilization of these observations in interpreting the physical properties and behavior of the Earth's crust.

Joseph Proudman (1946)
For his distinguished studies of the tides of the world.

Columbus Iselin II (1942)
For his studies of the Gulf stream system, for his leadership in the development of a general program of the physical oceanography of the North Atlantic, and for his distinctive direction of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution both in times of peace and war.

Frank R. Lillie (1939)

Harald U. Sverdrup (1938)

Edgar J. Allen (1937)

Martin Knudsen (1936)

T. Wayland Vaughan (1935)
For his investigations of corals, foraminifer, and submarine deposits, and for his leadership in developing oceanographic activities on the Pacific coast of America.

Haakon H. Gran (1934)
For his contributions to knowledge of the factors controlling organic production in the sea.

Bjorn Helland-Hansen (1933)
For his studies in physical oceanography and especially for his contributions to knowledge of the dynamic circulation of the ocean

Albert Defant (1932)
For his studies on atmospheric and oceanic circulation and his notable contributions to theoretical oceanography.

Henry B. Bigelow (1931)

Johannes Schmidt (1930)
For his conduct of numerous oceanographic expeditions, his investigations of the life of eels, and the investigations of numerous problems connected with fishes, among which may be mentioned his work on fish genetics and geographic variation.

J. Stanley Gardiner (1929)
For his contributions to oceanography.

Vagn W. Ekman (1928)
For his work in physical oceanography.

Max Weber (1927)
For his distinguished research in the field of oceanography.

Wilhelm Bjerknes (1926)
For his outstanding contributions to dynamic oceanography.

Otto S. Pettersson (1924)
For his studies on the chemistry and physics of the sea.

Charles D. Sigsbee (1920)

Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1918)
For his original contributions to the science of oceanography.

Johan Hjort (1913)


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