The Jerlov Award

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

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.

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