The Prince Albert I Medal

Albert I medal pictureIn partnership with the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans, Prince Rainier of Monaco has established the Prince Albert I Medal in the physical and chemical sciences of the oceans. This medal is named in honor of the late Prince Albert I of Monaco who, in 1919, organized the Oceanography Section of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. He also served as first President of that section. The medal is awarded biannually by IAPSO at its Assemblies.

One year prior to each IAPSO Assembly, the Secretary General of IAPSO will call for nominations for the award. Nominations must be sent to the Secretary General within three months after the announcement.

The Call for nominations for the recipient of the Prince Albert Medal for the year 2023 is open until 31 March, 2023. Read the call.

Background to the Award for Excellence in the Physical Sciences of the Oceans

Prince Albert IThe International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) has a long and distinguished history, starting in 1919, the year when the Association was established thanks to the vision and passion for the oceans of His Most Serene Highness Prince Albert I of Monaco. On 28 July 1919, in fact, the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) was founded in Brussels, Belgium. At that meeting, a section for Physical Oceanography was formed with Prince Albert I as its first President. Since then, the Physical Oceanography section of IUGG has evolved, becoming first the Association for Physical Oceanography in 1929, the International Association of Physical Oceanography in 1945, and finally IAPSO in 1967.

albert i on board 250x380

In September 2000, Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli, then the IAPSO President, wrote to HMSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco proposing the establishment of an award named for Prince Albert I to recognize his pioneering and extraordinary contributions to, and support of, Physical Oceanography. Prince Rainier III's answer was enthusiastic; he offered to present a most eminent scientist with the "Medal for Excellence in the Physical Sciences of the Oceans - IAPSO - Foundation Rainier III", engraved with this citation on one side and with the name of the laureate on the other. An official protocol was established and ratified by the Prince in February 2001. The Medal is awarded to a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the enhancement and advancement of the physical and/or chemical sciences of the oceans. It is offered at every IAPSO General Assembly, every other year, to a most prominent scientist chosen by a specially appointed IAPSO Award Committee.

Protocol of Prince Albert I Medal

1. The Prince Albert I Medal will be awarded to a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the enhancement and advancement of the physical and/or chemical sciences of the oceans.

2. The Medal will be awarded once every two years in conjunction with the IAPSO Assemblies starting in 2001 with the IAPSO Assembly in Argentina.

3. The Medal shall be awarded only once to the same scientist.

4. The Award Committee will total five or seven members appointed by the IAPSO Executive Committee. Its responsibility is to select suitable candidates for the award. The Chair of the Award Committee will be one of the IAPSO Vice Presidents.

5. The term of each Award Committee will be for one award period. The membership of the Award Committee will change between one award and the next. The Committee will include the Chair of the previous committee and the previous medalist as ex-officio members. Some members may serve for more than one period, provided that the majority are new members. If any member of the Committee is nominated for the award, he or she shall be excused as a member of the Committee and a substitute member found.

6. One year prior to each IAPSO Assembly, the Secretary General of IAPSO will call for nominations for the award. Nominations must be sent to the Secretary General within three months of the announcement and must be accompanied by substantive supporting documentation, consisting of a covering letter which states why the person should be considered for the award (about 100 words - this is essentially a citation), a 2-3 page CV. A 2-3 page list of best publications, and three letters of support.
The Chair of the Award Committee will prepare a list of candidates for the Medal from the nominations received. The Award Committee may not add its own nominations to the list.

7. The Award Committee will select from the list of nominations a suitable candidate for the Medal on the basis of the significance of each nominee's contributions as a whole to the enhancement and advancement of the physical and/or chemical sciences of the oceans.
Any unsuccessful nomination in a given competition may be re-considered for the medal in a subsequent competition. Any such re-nomination may or may not be made by the same nominator, and should be treated as a new nomination with updated material, including updated/new letters of support.

8. The Chair of the Award Committee will notify the President of IAPSO of its decision regarding the choice of the medalist. Only one candidate will be recommended for the award at a time, as there is provision only for one Medal. However, a second choice could also be identified in case of difficulties.
It is the responsibility of the President to promptly notify both the successful candidate and the successful candidate's nominator. Once the award of the Medal has been accepted by the successful candidate the President will promptly notify H.S.H. Prince Albert II (or his successor) and all nominators of candidates for the award. It is the responsibility of the Secretary General to promptly notify the Executive Committee and the scientific community of the award.
If, from the list of nominations, the Award Committee finds that there is no suitable candidate of sufficiently high standard, it may, at its discretion, recommend that no award be made.

9. The Award Committee will be responsible for preparing an appropriate citation to accompany the award of the Medal.

10. The Award Committee will conclude its work within three months of receipt of the nominations from the Secretary General.

11. The award ceremony will be held at an IAPSO Assembly, where the recipient will deliver a Prince Albert I Medal Memorial Lecture.

12. Changes to the above guidelines may only be made by the IAPSO Executive Committee. Any changes must then be ratified at the next Assembly, following which they will become effective.

The Protocol was established on February 8, 2001.
The revised Protocol was approved at the 2005 IAPSO Assembly in Australia.
The proposed revisions were approved at the 2007 IAPSO Assembly in Italy.
The revised Protocol was approved at the 2009 IAPSO Assembly in Canada.
The revised Protocol was approved at the 2015 Assembly in Czech Republic.
The revised Protocol was approved at the 2017 Assembly in South Africa.


Nomination Procedure

One year prior to each IAPSO Assembly, the Secretary General of IAPSO will call for nominations for the Award.

Nominations must be submitted to the Secretary General of IAPSO after the call for nominations and within three months from the announcement. 

The person accepting the medal is expected to deliver a Prince Albert I Memorial lecture on an oceanographic subject of his or her choosing at the Assembly where the medal is to be conferred. IAPSO will cover the necessary travel expenses for this purpose.

The following requirements for nominations must be adhered to:

1. The nomination must be for significant work of recognised international relevance in the physical and/or chemical sciences of the oceans, as defined in the IAPSO Statutes and By-Laws. Work in other scientific areas will not be considered and should not be cited.

2. IAPSO does not accept self-nominations. For purposes of definition, nominations solicited by a nominee are considered self-nominations.

3. Nominations must come from individuals who are themselves well qualified in the physical and/or chemical sciences of the oceans, and are thus capable of judging the merits of work in these areas.

4. Nominations must be "at arms length", i.e., they must be from individuals who are not directly employed by the nominee, and are not otherwise engaged in research of any kind under the general direction of the nominee.

5. Nominators are responsible for extracting and editing the material accompanying their nomination. Excessively long attachments may be discarded by the Award Committee.

6. Nominations must be signed by the nominator, and must indicate his or her present position and address; if retired, the position last held and the year of retirement must be indicated. Nominations will be submitted by e-mail to the Secretary General of IAPSO.

A complete nomination package should include:

* a cover letter which states why the person nominated is worthy of the award (about 100 words - this is essentially a citation);

* the nominee's CV, consisting of 2-3 pages about education, positions, awards, research interests, services to the community, etc., and another 2-3 pages listing the most important publications;

* 3 letters of support.

Recipients of the Prince Albert I Medal

Dr. Walter Munk

Dr. Klaus Wyrtki

Prof. Friedrich Schott

Dr. Russ Davis

Prof. Harry L. Bryden

Dr. Trevor McDougall

Prof. Arnold L. Gordon

Prof. Toshio Yamagata

Prof. Lynne Talley

Prof. Corinne Le Quéré

Prof. Carl Wunsch



Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2021

Carl Wunsch

21 CarlWunschProf. Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography, Emeritus, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2021, in recognition of his groundbreaking contributions to the development of modern physical oceanography.

Prof. Wunsch pioneered the use of satellite altimetry, was the intellectual and creative driving force behind the World Ocean Circulation Experiment, established the modern practice of global ocean state estimation to synthesize observations and models, contributed seminal studies to improve our understanding of the global ocean circulation and its role in climate, and with Walter Munk, invented acoustic ocean tomography and established the contemporary paradigm of the global overturning circulation as a mechanically-driven phenomenon.

His commitment to education produced a list of former students, postdoctoral researchers, and collaborators that reads like a Who's Who of Physical Oceanography.

mp4 icon Award Ceremony and Memorial Lecture


Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2019

Corinne Le Quéré

19 Corinne Le Quere Corinne Le Quéré, FRS, Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (2011-2018), is the Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2019, for her fundamental contributions to our understanding of ocean biogeochemistry and global carbon cycling, and her work to quantify the ocean's role in the uptake of global carbon emissions.

Professor Le Quéré has pioneered the use of innovative approaches to understanding how the ocean carbon sink has changed over geologic and historical timescales, and how changes in temperature, circulation and biogeochemistry will affect the ocean carbon sink in the future. Her leading, inspirational role in the international Global Carbon Project has led to a quantification of annual increases in carbon dioxide emissions since 2000 and created a product of immense value to science and society. A threetime author of Assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Professor Le Quéré's career impacts have been particularly profound because of her exceptional engagement and communication of science beyond the realm of academia, at the important interface between science and climate policy.

pdfPresentation by Prof Corinne Le Quéré 7.5MB

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2017

Lynne Talley

17 LynneTalleyLynne Talley, Distinguished Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA is the Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2017, for her outstanding contribution to our knowledge of the global ocean's water masses, circulation, dynamics and role in climate.

Professor Talley is one of the world's foremost ocean scientists of the past 50 years, with seminal contributions to our understanding of all ocean basins, including landmark discoveries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern Oceans. She has been a leader in ocean observations for more than 30 years and was a driving force of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE). While Professor Talley's core scientific interests have been in intermediate water formation, mode waters and circulation she has also made important contributions towards knowledge of ocean heat transport and fresh water fluxes. Recently her focus has been on the Southern Ocean and its connections with the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This work has produced a number of landmark analyses, not only of basic hydrography but also chemical tracers and dynamics of the potential vorticity field and of the global overturning circulation.

Professor Talley has made all these outstanding scientific advances while contributing an exceptional level of service to ocean sciences spanning four decades of academic and professional excellence; including teaching in the Scripps educational programme, mentoring, and services.

There are few who know the ocean as well as Professor Talley making her a most worthy recipient of the 2017 Prince Albert I Medal.

pdfPresentation by Prof Lynne Talley 1.8MB

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2015

Toshio Yamagata

15 Toshio YamagataToshio Yamagata, Emeritus Professor of the University of Tokyo and Director of Application Laboratory, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokohama City 236-0001, Japan, is the Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2015: ‘For his ground-breaking work and exceptional contribution to our understanding of El Niño/Southern Oscillation and the newly discovered Indian Ocean Dipole’.

Toshio Yamagata, is a pioneer and leader in ocean-atmosphere interaction dynamics, who has made ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of climate variability. In his early career he made fundamental contributions to this emerging field of research and introduced the concept of coupled ocean-atmospheric instability. He showed that when the two media meet, their interaction gives rise to new instabilities that in many aspects, resemble El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Subsequently, he has profoundly influenced work on tropical ocean-atmosphere interactions and tropical climate variability and predictability. In a landmark paper in Nature in 1999, he and his group published a seminal paper entitled “A dipole mode in tropical Indian Ocean” that has fundamentally changed our understanding of the role of the Indian Ocean in climate variability. This work essentially created a new subfield of tropical climate research and laid the foundation for seasonal climate predictions in the Indian Ocean sector.

In short his contribution toward expanding our understanding of the oceans and climate system are truly exceptional, he is a very worthy recipient of the 8th Prince Albert I Medal.

Presentation by Prof Toshio Yamagata 10.4MB

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2013 

Prof. Arnold L. Gordon

13 ArnoldGordonProf. Arnold L. Gordon, Lamont Associate Director, Division of Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, USA, is the Prince Albert 1 Medal recipient 2013: "For his outstanding contribution in observational oceanography and in particular for his work in defining the physical processes in the Southern Ocean and Indonesian Throughflow”.

Arnold L. Gordon epitomizes the golden age of physical oceanography as a fundamentally observational science. Almost alone, he drove the observational program in the Southern Ocean (SO) in succession to the explorers of the early 20th Century. The recent emergence of the SO as a critical component of the climate system is testimony to Arnold’s foresight extending back nearly 50 years. The Eltanin observations, in particular, will be his monument. We owe most of our knowledge of the important oceanography of the Indonesian Archipelago to Arnold’s tenacity in overcoming scientific, logistical, and political obstacles. He pioneered studies of Agulhas eddies, in which his early use of satellite altimetry excited wider interest in this new technology.

The Award ceremony took place during the  Joint IAHS, IAPSO, IASPEI Assembly in Gothenburg, Sweden, 22 - 26 July 2013. It was followed by the Memorial Lecture by the Awardee: Large scale impact of the Indonesian Throughflow.

pdfPresentation by Arnold L. Gordon30MB 

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2011

Dr. Trevor McDougall


Dr. Trevor McDougall, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Australia,  is the Prince Albert 1 Medal recipient 2011: "For his outstanding work on (1) important and fundamental problems of ocean fluid dynamics over the full range of ocean scales, and (2) the thermodynamic properties of seawater".

Dr Trevor McDougall is internationally known for his work on important and fundamental problems of oceanic fluid dynamics covering all ocean scales. These include many aspects of double-diffusive convection, the definition of neutral density surfaces in relation to the movement of mesoscale eddies, and the way in which mesoscale mixing processes should be represented in ocean models.  To faithfully represent the ocean in climate models, it is necessary to incorporate elements of ocean thermodynamics as described by McDougall’s work.  Most recently, he led a SCOR/IAPSO team of chemists, physical oceanographers and modelers in redefining the thermodynamic properties of seawater, an interest stemming from his own work on the accurate treatment of heat in the ocean-climate system. This recent work strengthens even further the brilliant and unique contributions Trevor McDougall has made to oceanic science.  He is a most worthy recipient of the Prince Albert I Medal.

The Award ceremony took place at the IUGG2011 General Assembly in Melbourne, 1 July, 10:30. This was followed by the Memorial Lecture by the Awardee.

As an update on the above biographical sketch of Dr. Trevor McDougall, the IAPSO Executive wishes to announce that in April 2012, Trevor was appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where he will lead a group of physical oceanographers lecturing in applied mathematics and statistics. Also in April 2012, Trevor was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS), which is one of the highest honours a scientist from the UK or the British Commonwealth can be awarded.  Congratulations Trevor!

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2009

Prof. Harry L. Bryden

09 DrHarryBrydenProfessor Harry L. Bryden FRS, University of Southampton, UK, has been awarded the 2009 Prince Albert I Medal of IAPSO, " recognition of his fundamental contributions to understanding the ocean's role in the global climate system."

Professor Bryden is the pre-eminent deep ocean observational physical oceanographer of the past twenty years. His research addresses problems of global significance and has made major contributions to our knowledge of ocean heat and freshwater transports and their role in global climate. His eclectic research interests embrace the dynamics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the circulation of the Mediterranean, the dynamics of western boundary currents, straits and overflows, and ocean thermodynamics. His status as an observational scientist and as an inspirational mentor to younger scientists make him a most fitting recipient of the Prince Albert I Medal.

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2007

Dr. Russ Davis

Dr. Russ DavisProf. Davis is an internationally renowned scientist whose research has enormously advanced the observational, as well as theoretical, components of Physical Oceanography. His seminal contributions range from fluid mechanics to ocean waves, turbulence ad mixing, analysis methods for ocean observations, climate variability and its impact on ecosystems.

Prof. Davis has pioneered the development of autonomous platforms for in situ ocean observations. His contributions have been the scientific and technological catalyst for a revolution in ocean observations permitting systematic measurements to be made in remote and previously sparsely-observed areas by the international Argo Programme.

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2005

Prof. Dr. Friedrich Schott, Kiel University

Prof. Friedrich SchottThrough a unique and brilliant combination of major observational programs and dynamical insight, Prof. Friedrich Schott of Kiel University has unraveled the basic physics and the variability of many key regions of the World's oceans. In particular, his descriptions of the circulation of the Indian Ocean and the subtropical Atlantic, along with their western boundary currents, have provided the foundation for further large scale international programs on the role of the ocean in climate. He has emphasized the unsteadiness of the large scale circulation, with investigations of the seasonal and longer-term variability of the Florida Current and the Somali Current among others, and the discovery of previously unsuspected features. Prof. Schott has also been a leader in observing and understanding the key processes of deep convection in the Labrador, Greenland, and Mediterranean Seas.

Prof. Schott is known for his discovery, with Hank Stommel, of the "beta spiral," a fundamental feature of ocean currents, and has made major contributions to our understanding of higher frequency phenomena such as internal tides.

Prof. Schott has been a tireless contributor and leader in international programs such as the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and the Climate Variability and Predictability Study (CLIVAR), and in spearheading Germany's major contributions to these programs.

As a sea-going scientist, a dynamical oceanographer, and an international leader, Prof. Schott is without peer and a very worthy recipient of the third Prince Albert I Medal for Excellence in the Physical and Chemical Sciences of the Ocean.

Fritz Schott passed away on 30 April 2008.

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2003

Dr. Klaus Wyrtki

Dr Klaus WyrtkiDr. Klaus Wyrtki is now best known for his ENSO research from the 1970s to 1993. He developed breakthroughs in understanding and forecasting El Nino; and he established the tide gage network that provided the essential oceanographic data set. He is recognized for having intellectual courage as well as deep insight into the problem. His work changed attention from the complex thermodynamics determining sea surface temperatures to the far more tractable problem of wind driven ocean dynamics. In addition, through flawless regional data analysis with sound application of ocean dynamics, he has conceptually made clear the fundamental workings of the ocean. He developed what is now the foundations of our understanding of the cold, deep ocean circulation and stratification. His 1960 paper on the Southern Ocean was the first to link the large-scale structure of the circumpolar current to meridional fluxes and ocean fronts. His 1961 paper on global thermohaline circulation is the first to relate deep ocean convection with global diapycnal mixing. In 1962, he showed that the low oxygen layer under the thermocline is a compromise between global thermohaline circulation and oxidation of organic material. He also authored a monograph on the Indonesian Seas, mapped the Indian Ocean, the mean and eddy kinetic energy of the global ocean, and conducted landmark work on the Red Sea. In the Indian Ocean, he is credited with the discovery of the Eastward Equatorial Jet, now called the Wyrtki Jet, in the upper hydrosphere of the equatorial Indian Ocean.

Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2001

Dr. Walter H. Munk, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

01 DrWalterMunkProfessor Munk is arguably the most distinguished living oceanographer and one of founding fathers of modern Physical Oceanography. His innumerable contributions to our field are milestones in the evolution of Physical Oceanography during the last fifty years. Prof. Munk is a member of all the major scientific societies, including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. He has received more than twenty among national and international medals and awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1983 from President Reagan. In 1999 he was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences from the Inamori Foundation in Japan. No better scientist could have been chosen as the first recipient of the Prince Albert I Gold Medal.

Born in October 19, 1917, Walter H. Munk passed away on February 8, 2019.

IAPSO memory of Walter Munk



To promote the study of the oceans and the interactions that take place at its boundaries with the sea floor, coastal environment and atmosphere, through the use of physics, chemistry, mathematics and biogeochemisty.


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