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  home > awards and honors > the jerlov award

Awarded in Recognition of Contribution Made to
the Advancement of Our Knowledge of the
Nature and Consequences of Light in the Ocean

About the Award

Nils Gunnar Jerlov was an early leader in the area of ocean optics research. His name is recognized widely within the entire international oceanographic research community. Jerlov's theoretical and experimental work on ocean optical and related processes helped form the foundation of modern ocean optical research. He proposed the concept of an optical ocean water mass classification and the Jerlov water types are familiar to many outside of the ocean optics community. His book, Marine Optics, published in 1976, remains widely referenced and is considered required reading for all students of ocean optics and ocean color remote sensing.

The Oceanography Society (TOS) commemorates Dr. Jerlov and his many contributions to the study of light in the ocean with an international award, established in his name, to recognize outstanding achievements in ocean optics and ocean color remote sensing research.

TOS is responsible for setting award policy, garnering nominations from the international research community, and selecting a recipient from those nominated. To be eligible for nomination, the recipient's work must deal directly with the processes governing the interaction of light with the ocean and/or the consequences of such interactions. The award may be issued in recognition of research (theoretical or applied, field-based or laboratory-based, a landmark paper or lifetime achievement), a pattern of excellence in education, a history of service to the international ocean optics research community, or contributions to all of the above. In the end, the nominated individual must have significantly advanced our knowledge of how light interacts with the ocean.

The award consists of a bronze medallion designed by Judith Munk, a lapel pin, travel support to attend the Ocean Optics Conference, and a cash award.

This award is supported by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

The deadline for nominations for the next award is June 1, 2016. Submit all nomination materials and direct all questions to:

Nomination Procedure

Nominations consist of:

  • A single master nominating statement (no more than 5 pages)
  • A suggested one-paragraph citation of no more than 100 words
  • An abbreviated CV of the nominee
  • Up to five additional letters of endorsement (2 page maximum) solicited by the master nominator (only one of which may be from the candidate's institution—international endorsements are encouraged)

The master nominator serves as the point of contact. Submission of materials in electronic format is required. Submit all nomination materials and direct all questions to:

The nomination deadline is June 1, 2016.

Nils Gunnar Jerlov (1910–1990)

Professor Nils Gunnar Jerlov graduated in 1939 with a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Lund. He was very active in many fields of scientific research including nuclear physics, environmental pollution, and the ocean heat budget. However, he is best known for his many contributions to ocean optics; the study of how light interacts with ocean water. His work ranged from fundamental theory and predictive models to sensor development to field and laboratory observations.

In 1947–48 Dr. Jerlov participated in the Albatross Expedition, a worldwide Swedish oceanographic expedition to study ocean sediments. His observations during this expedition combined with data he collected around the world during many other campaigns, often in collaboration with leading oceanographers of his time, laid the foundations for his optical classification of ocean water; the well-known "Jerlov water types". He summarized his own work and those of many others in his 1968 book "Optical Oceanography", which he revised in 1976 and published under the title "Marine Optics".

In 1963 Dr. Jerlov was appointed professor in physical oceanography at the University of Copenhagen, a position he held until 1978 when he retired. While there, he established one of the leading international centers of excellence in optical oceanography. He was a member of numerous international associations such as the International Association for Physical Oceanography, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, the Nordic Committee on Physical Oceanography, and the Danish National Board for Oceanography.

Dr. Jerlov was a man of peace and had no understanding of disputes between colleagues regarding the publication of scientific findings. He was a leading figure in science promoting the establishment of national and international oceanographic cooperation.



photo of K.L. CarderGeorge W. Kattawar

The Oceanography Society is pleased to announce that Professor George W. Kattawar has been selected as the 2014 recipient of The Nils Gunnar Jerlov Award recognizing his contributions to the advancement of our knowledge of the nature and consequences of light in the ocean.

Dr. Kattawar is internationally recognized for his contributions to radiative transfer theory and its applications to light propagation in the ocean. His work has centered on the use of polarization to study a wide variety of theoretical and applied topics in oceanic optics and related fields, including three-dimensional geometries and time dependence. He has mentored over 40 graduate and postdoctoral students, and his courses and lectures have received numerous teaching awards. He has also served on many government and academic advisory committees. Dr. Kattawar received his Ph.D. in Physics from Texas A&M University in 1964, and he has been at Texas A&M since 1968, where he is now professor emeritus.

Dr. Kattawar will be honored during a ceremony on October 30th at the Ocean Optics Conference in Portland, Maine, USA.

Previous Recipients

2012: Kendall L. Carder
2010: Charles S. Yentsch
2008: Talbot Waterman
2006: J. Ronald V. Zaneveld
2004: Howard R. Gordon
2002: Raymond C. Smith
2000: André Morel