Inge Lehmann

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Inge Lehmann
Lehmann in 1932
Born (1888-05-13)13 May 1888
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died 21 February 1993(1993-02-21) (aged 104)
Copenhagen, Denmark[1]
Resting place Hørsholm Cemetery
55°52′14.06″N 12°30′16.01″E / 55.8705722°N 12.5044472°E / 55.8705722; 12.5044472
Fields seismology, geophysics
Institutions Geodetical Institute of Denmark
Alma mater University of Copenhagen, University of Cambridge
Notable awards William Bowie Medal (1971)

Inge Lehmann ForMemRS (13 May 1888 – 21 February 1993) was a Danish seismologist and geophysicist. In 1936, she discovered that the Earth has a solid inner core inside a molten outer core. Before that, seismologists believed Earth's core to be a single molten sphere, being unable, however, to explain careful measurements of seismic waves from earthquakes, which were inconsistent with the Earth having a single molten core. Lehmann analysed the seismic wave measurements and concluded that Earth must have a solid inner core and a molten outer core to produce seismic waves that matched the measurements. Other seismologists tested and then accepted Lehmann's explanation. Inge Lehmann was also the longest-lived woman scientist who lived for 104 years in her whole life. [2] [1][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Inge Lehmann was born and grew up in Østerbro, a part of Copenhagen. Her mother was Ida Sophie Tørsleff; her father was experimental psychologist Alfred Georg Ludvik Lehmann (1858–1921). She received her school education at a pedagogically progressive high school led by Hanna Adler, Niels Bohr's aunt.[5][6] According to Lehmann, her father and Adler were the most significant influences on her intellectual development.

She studied mathematics at the University of Copenhagen and University of Cambridge, interrupted by poor health.[7] She continued her studies of mathematics in Cambridge from 1910 to 1911 at Newnham College. In 1911, she returned from Cambridge feeling exhausted from the work and put her studies aside for a while. She developed good computational skills in an actuary office she worked in for a few years until she resumed studies at Copenhagen University in 1918. She completed the candidatus magisterii degree in physical science and mathematics in two years. When she returned to Denmark in 1923, she accepted a position at Copenhagen University as an assistant to J.F. Steffensen, the professor of actuarial science.

She was a very shy girl, and did not enjoy being in the spotlight too much. Even when she grew older, she was still very shy. She was schooled in a private school called shared school. After taking the entrance exam for Copenhagen University with the first rank mark. She started freshman courses in mathematics, chemistry and Physics. She finally graduated in 1920. It took her an exceptionally long time to get a degree: in 1911 she had returned to Copenhagen after a year at Cambridge University completely burned out; she then abandoned her studies to do actuarial work for an insurance company. She did actuarial work until 1918, when she returned to university, finally graduating with a mathematics degree in 1920, aged 32. After getting her degree, she started working for as an assistant in Copenhagen University’s actuarial department and later shifted her interest to seismology work with Professor Niels Norlund. She learned that the internal structure of our planet can be understood through the study of earthquake data. She travelled a lot of places just to get a better understanding of the earth’s movement. [8] [9]



A modern understanding of the Lehmann discontinuity: velocity of seismic S-waves in the Earth near the surface in three tectonic provinces: TNA = Tectonic North America SNA = Shield North America and ATL = North Atlantic.[11]

In 1925 Lehmann became an assistant to the geodesist Niels Erik Nørlund, who assigned her the task of setting up seismological observatories in Denmark and Greenland. Based on her studies in seismology, in 1928 she earned the magister scientiarum degree (equivalent to an MA) in geodesy and accepted a position as state geodesist and head of the department of seismology at the Geodetical Institute of Denmark led by Nørlund.[12]

In a paper titled P' (1936),[13] Lehmann was the first to interpret P wave arrivals—which inexplicably appeared in the P wave shadow of the Earth's core—as reflections from an inner core.[14] Other leading seismologists of the time, such as Beno Gutenberg, Charles Richter, and Harold Jeffreys, adopted this interpretation within two or three years. Lehmann was significantly hampered in her work and maintaining international contacts during World War II and the German occupation of Denmark. In 1971 the interpretation was shown correct by computer calculations.[15]

In 1952, Lehmann was considered for a professorship in geophysics at Copenhagen University, but was not appointed. In 1953, she retired from her position at the Geodetic Institute. She moved to the US for several years and collaborated with Maurice Ewing and Frank Press on investigations of Earth's crust and upper mantle. During this work, she discovered another seismic discontinuity, which lies at depths between 190 and 250 km and was named for her, the Lehmann discontinuity. Francis Birch noted that the "Lehmann discontinuity was discovered through exacting scrutiny of seismic records by a master of a black art for which no amount of computerization is likely to be a complete substitute."[15]

Inge education was progressive and there was equal opportunity for both men and women to excel. A long time passed before Lehmann graduated with a degree, but she spent decades working in her specified field. She went through a year at Cambridge university and returned to Copenhagen in 1911 shortly after the semester. Inge actually pushed her studies aside altogether, feeling tired after her year at Cambridge, and took up actuarial work as a break from her studies. Working at a small insurance company until 1918, she made her come back at university to achieve her degree in mathematics graduating at age 32. After becoming assistant to Professor Niels Nørlund in 1925 in seismology work, she became fixated on her work in this specific field. At age 40 Lehmann obtained a Master of Science degree in Geodesy, which was the science of making instruments related to the measurements of the earth. Although to be administrative as head of the department was a huge part of Lehmann’s job, she continued to put through scientific research as well as maintaining her administrative position. Inge looked into improving the coordination and analysis of measurements from Europe’s seismographic observatories, as well as many other scientific endeavours. This made data from the observatories to be better contrasted to one another. [16] [17]

Awards and honors[edit]

Lehmann received many honors for her outstanding scientific achievements, among them the Gordon Wood Award (1960), the Emil Wiechert Medal (1964), the Gold Medal of the Danish Royal Society of Science and Letters (1965), the Tagea Brandt Rejselegat (1938 and 1967), her election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1969,[18] the William Bowie Medal (1971, as the first woman), and the Medal of the Seismological Society of America in 1977. She was awarded honorary doctorates from Columbia University in 1964 and from the University of Copenhagen in 1968, as well as numerous honorific memberships.

The asteroid 5632 Ingelehmann was named in her honor and in 2015 (which was the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Denmark) Inge Lehmann got, in recognition of her great struggle against the male-dominated research community that existed in Denmark in the mid-20th century, a new species named after her: Globicornis (Hadrotoma) ingelehmannae sp. n., Jiří Háva & Anders Leth Damgaard, 2015.[19]

In 1997, the American Geophysical Union established the Inge Lehmann Medal to honor "outstanding contributions to the understanding of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth's mantle and core."

On the 127th anniversary of her birth, Google dedicated its worldwide Google Doodle to her.[20][21][22]

A new memorial dedicated to Inge Lehmann will be installed on Frue Plads in Copenhagen in 2017. The monument will be designed by Elisabeth Toubro.[23]

Inge Lehmann served as the Chair of Danish Geophysical Society in 1940 and 1944 respectively. Because of her contribution to geological science, the Lehmann Medal was named in 1997 by the American Geophysical Union, which was for honoring those who made “outstanding contribution to the understanding of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth’s mantle and core” annually. The Medal combined with “Engraved medal”, “AGU Conferred Fellow( if honoree is not already an AGU Fellow)”, “AGU Fellow lapel pin ( if honoree is not already an AGU Fellow), “AGU Fellow certificate ( if honoree is not already an AGU Fellow)”, “Recognition in Eos”, “ Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year”, “ Four complimentary hotel nights at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year”, “ Two complimentary tickets to the Honors Banquet at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year”. Another award was named by her name is a travel award which was for a psychologist and a geophysicist.[24][25] [26]

Key publications[edit]

  • Lehmann, Inge (1936). "P". Publications du Bureau Central Séismologique International. A14 (3): 87–115. 


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Lehmann, Inge". Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Detroit, MI: Charles Scribner's Sons. 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Famous Scientists  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Lehmann; Inge (1888–1993)". The Royal Society: Past Fellows. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Bolt, Bruce A. (January 1994). "Inge Lehmann". Physics Today. 47 (1): 61. Bibcode:1994PhT....47a..61B. doi:10.1063/1.2808386. 
  5. ^ "WiP: Herstory: Spotlight Scientist: Inge Lehmann". Purdue University. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Knopoff, Leon. "Lehmann, Inge". UCLA. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Bolt, Bruce. "Inge Lehmann". UCLA. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  8. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Inge Lehmann". Famous Scientists. 
  10. ^ Gillispie, Charles. Complete dictionary of scientific biography. Detroit, Mich.: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 234. 
  11. ^ Figure patterned after Don L Anderson (2007). New Theory of the Earth (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 102, Figure 8.6. ISBN 0-521-84959-4. ; Original figure attributed to Grand and Helmberger (1984)
  12. ^ Maiken, Lolck (2008). ""Lehmann, Inge." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography". Gale Virtual Reference Library. Vol. 22: Gale. pp. 232–236. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Lehmann, I. (1936): P’, Publications du Bureau Central Seismologique International, Série A, Travaux Scientifique, 14, 87–115.
  14. ^ Bolt, Bruce A. (1987). "50 years of studies on the inner core". EOS. 68 (6): 73,80–81. 
  15. ^ a b Dahlmann, Jan. "Inge Lehmann og Jordens kerne" in English Ingeniøren, 23 January 2005. Accessed: 14 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Inge Lehmann". Famous Scientists. 
  17. ^ "Inge Lehmann: Discoverer of the Earth's Inner Core". American Museum of Natural History. 
  18. ^ "Fellowship of the Royal Society". Royal Society. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Gander, Kashmira (12 May 2015). "Inge Lehmann's 127th Birthday: Pioneering seismologist celebrated by Google Doodle". The Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  21. ^ Kevin McSpadden (13 May 2015). "New Google Doodle Honors Pioneering Seismologist Inge Lehmann". Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  22. ^ "Inge Lehmann's 127th Birthday". 
  23. ^ "Oprejsning til vores største videnskabskvinde" (in Danish). Berlingske. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "Inge Lehmann Medal". American Geophysical Union. 
  25. ^ "Inge Lehmann". 
  26. ^ "Inge Lehmann". Famous Scientists. 

External links[edit]