Professor Doctor Jörn Thiede

Jörn Thiede is a paleoceanographer, whose chief scientific interests concern the Earth’s climate history.

Photo: Norwegian-German Willy Brandt Prize, 2011

Joern Thiede was born in Berlin in 1941. He studied geology at the Universities of Kiel, Vienna, Aarhus and Buenos Aires, where he also worked as a lab technician at the Direccion de Minas; he obtained his PhD in 1971 at Kiel University in Geology (marine micropaleontology). 1967-1982 he worked in junior to senior academic positions (from amanuensis to full professor) at the universities of Aarhus (Denmark), Bergen (Norway), Oregon State University in Corvallis (USA) and learned to sail the worlds oceans attempting to understand the history of their shape, waters and life. In 1977 he moved to the University of Olso (Norway) to assume the Chair in Historical Geology. During that time he started to specialize in the history of the Arctic Ocean and he developed an interest in polar research.

In 1982/83 he moved to a professorship in Historical Geology and Paleontology at Kiel University (Germany), and persued the foundation of a new research institution in marine geosciences (GEOMAR) and he initiated a large coordinated research project (DFG Sonderforschungsbereich 313) on the „Global Change in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea“. IFM-GEOMAR was established in 1987 and Prof. Thiede moved to a Chair in Paleoceanography and became the Founding Director of this new institution; after fusing with the Kiel Institute of Marine Sciences it is now a world famous research centre. During that time he also led as chief scientist expeditions into high northern latitude waters (on «POLARSTERN», the German research ice breaker, and on «JOIDES RESOLUTION», the ODP drill ship). He initiated the ODP drilling program „North Atlantic Arctic Gateways“ which resulted in several legs. His scientific interest concentrated for many years on the history of ocean basins, and he participated in 6 DSDP and ODP legs in alle 3 major oceans, as well as in numerous expeditions on research vessels from a variety of countries.

From IFM-GEOMAR Prof. Thiede moved on to become the Director of the Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) of the Helmholtz-Association, the national German center for polar research in Bremerhaven in 1997. This assignment ended in 2007, and he assumed an Adjunct Professorship at UNIS (Norway) and a professorship «Geology and Climate» at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). As chairman of the European Polar Board (EPB) 1999-2002 of the European Science Foundation and President of SCAR (2002-2206) he reorganized both organisations, helped to prepare for the International Polar Year (IPY 2007-2008) and initiated the EU-ESFRI project «ERICON-AURORA BOREALIS» (novel international research icebreaker for the Arctic). Aurora Borealis must be a unique vessel, ­ a combination of a heavy icebreaker, a scientific drilling ship and a multi-purpose research platform that can operate year-round in all polar waters.

Prof. Thiede has been honoured for his scientific work with many national and international awards, e.g. with foreign membership to the ‘Russian Academy of Sciences’ in 2003 and Honorary Doctorate from Saint-Petersburg State University in 2004. In 1989 he was granted the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the DFG, Germany’s most prestigeous scientific award. He has actively promoted German-Russian collaboration since 1989 and has assisted many marine and polar research projects, including the Otto-Schmidt Laboratory at Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) and the Masters programme «Applied Polar and Marine sciences» at Saint-Petersburg State University.

Currently he is the Chief scientist of the Köppen laboratory “Palaeogeography and geomorphology of polar countries and the World Ocean” at Saint-Petersburg State University (from 2010 onwards).