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    Spotlight
Scientist

    Inge Lehmann

    (1888-1993)

    (Summer 1998)


    Vital Life Statistics

    Inge Lehmann was born in 1888 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She attended Denmark's first co-educational school, founded by the aunt of Neils Bohr, Hanna Adler.

    Lehmann attended the University of Copenhagen from 1907 to 1910. She returned a few years later to graduate with a master's degree in Mathematics in 1920.

    In 1925, Lehmann began work for the Danish Geodetic Institute. She traveled to Greenland to make seismological stations for recording earthquakes.

    Lehmann was also studying in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. She received her M.S. in Geodesy in 1928.

    One year later, Lehmann was appointed to chief of the Danish Geodetic Institute's seismological department. She held that position until 1953.

    During her career, she remarked about the difficulties of a woman entering the male-dominated world of science. She said, "You should know how many incompetent men I had to compete with--in vain."

    Lehmann traveled all across the world, including Canada, the United States, and Europe, to learn about the Earth before dying in 1993.

     
    Achievements

    Inge Lemann's primary accomplishments dealt with discoveries about the Earth's core. In 1936, she discovered that the Earth has a small inner core. Then she "saw" the area where earthquake waves did not pass through and reasoned that there must be an outer liquid core and an inner solid core.

    Other achievements of Lehmann's include founding the Danish Geophysical Society in 1941. (She was the chair of the organization in 1944.) She was the first president of the European Seismological Commission. Lehmann was Denmark's only seismologist for two decades. And, in 1977, she became the first woman to be awarded the Medal of the Seismological Society of America.

     
    Awards and Honors

    Inge Lehmann received many awards throughout her career. Among them are the Wiechert Medal awarded by the Deutsche Geophysikalische Gesellschaft in 1964, a a Doctor of Science degree from New York's Columbia University in 1964, and the creation of an award in her honor in 1997. The award is The Lehmann Medal, awarded by the American Geophysical Union.

    Sources:

    1. "Inge Lehmann," Contributions of Women to Physics.
    2. Pflepsen, Alison. "Making Waves: Inge Lehmann (1888-1993)." New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams January/February 1998: 34.
    3. Photograph of Inge Lehmann
      In the memoir by Bruce A. Bolt in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 1997 [bmfrs1997bb].
    Copyright 1999 WiP