Frank Press
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Frank Press
Frank Press
Frank Press Jerusalem1953.jpg
Frank Press in Jerusalem, 1953
19th President of the National Academy of Sciences

Philip Handler
Bruce Alberts
2nd Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

PresidentJimmy Carter
H. Guyford Stever
George A. Keyworth, II
Personal details
Born(1924-12-04)December 4, 1924
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 2020(2020-01-29) (aged 95)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
Alma materCity College of New York (B.S.) (1944)
Columbia University (M.S.) (1946)
Columbia University (Ph.D)(1949)
AwardsWilliam Bowie Medal (1979)
Japan Prize (1993)
Vannevar Bush Award (1994)
AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize (1994)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (1997)
Scientific career
InstitutionsLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Caltech Seismological Laboratory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Office of Science and Technology Policy
ThesisTwo applications of normal mode sound propagation in the ocean (1949)
Doctoral advisorMaurice "Doc" Ewing
Doctoral studentsDon L. Anderson
Charles Archambeau
Ari Ben-Menahem

Frank Press (December 4, 1924 - January 29, 2020[1]) was an American geophysicist.[2] He was an advisor to four U.S. presidents, and later served two consecutive terms as president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1981-1993). He was the author of 160 scientific papers and co-author of the textbooks Earth and Understanding Earth.

Press served on the President's Science Advisory Committee during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the National Science Board. In 1977 he was appointed President Jimmy Carter's Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, serving until 1981. [3]

Early life and career

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Press graduated with a B.S. degree from the City College of New York (1944) and completed his M.A. (1946) and Ph.D. (1949) degrees at Columbia University under Maurice "Doc" Ewing. As one of Ewing's two assistant professors, (with J. Lamar "Joe" Worzel as the other) Press was a co-founder of Lamont Geological Observatory (now Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) in Palisades, N.Y. Originally trained as an oceanographer, Press participated in research cruises on the sailing vessels RV Vema and RV Atlantis.

In the early 1950s, Press turned to seismology, co-authoring with Ewing and Jardetzky a seminal monograph on elastic waves in layered media. In 1957, Press was recruited by Caltech to succeed founder Beno Gutenberg as director of the Seismological Laboratory, a position in which he remained until 1965. The appointment was controversial in that it passed over both Hugo Benioff and Charles Richter, then the laboratory's senior professors, for a much younger outsider.

Press' accomplishments in this period include the design of a long-period seismograph, and the first detection of the Earth's normal modes of oscillation ("bell ringing"), excited by the Great Chilean earthquake, a pioneering application of digital processing to seismic recordings. Press was also closely involved in the construction of a lunar seismograph, first deployed by the Apollo 11 astronauts (see Lunar seismology).

Later career

In 1965, Press moved to MIT as department head of Earth and Planetary Sciences, where, with significant support from philanthropist Cecil H. Green, he revitalized what had been an overly traditional geology department by hiring new faculty members. He remained at MIT until 1976, and during this time, his work included collaborations with Vladimir Keilis-Borok and Leon Knopoff on computer pattern matching techniques that could be applied to earthquake prediction.

In 1976, Press became Science Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In 1981 he was elected president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and was re-elected in 1987, serving for a total of 12 years.

In 1996, Press co-founded WAG (the Washington Advisory Group, later known as the Advisory Group at Huron), a global consulting company with clients that included approximately 50 leading universities. WAG played a notable role all phases of the founding of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.[4] Press chaired that university's international advisory committee until 2010.

Press is the recipient of 30 honorary degrees. Named in his honor are Mount Press, which in the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica; and Osedax frankpressi, a species of whalebone-eating marine worm.

Notable accomplishments



  • Press, F. and R. Siever. (2001). Understanding Earth. W.H. Freeman.
  • Press, F. (1998). The role of geoscientists in providing credible advice to government officials. Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, 30(7): 247.
  • Press, F. (1995). Growing up in the Golden Age of Science. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 23: 1-9.
  • Press, F. and Allen, C. (1995). Patterns of seismic release in the Southern California region. Journal of Geophysical Research, 100(B4): 6421-6430.
  • Press, F. (1995). Needed: Coherent budgeting for science and technology. Science, 270(5241): 1448-1450.
  • Press, F. (1994). The restructuring of science in research universities in the post-industrial society. Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, 26(7): 154.
  • Press, F. (1991). Geoscience education as viewed from the National Academy of Sciences. Journal of Geological Education, 39(2): 98-100.
  • Press, F. (1991). Science and the public welfare. Earthquakes and Volcanoes, 22(3): 93.
  • Press, F. (1990). The role of education in technological competitiveness. International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life Long Learning, 1(4): 311-318. DOI: 10.1504/IJCEELL.1991.030366.
  • Press, F. (1988). An international decade for natural disaster reduction. USGS Open-File Report No. 88-0361, pp. 53-61.
  • Press, F. and R. Siever. (1986). Earth. W.H. Freeman.
  • Press, F. (1984). Science and creationism. Geotimes, 29(5): 9.
  • Press, F. (1981). Science and technology in the White House, 1977 to 1980; Part 1. Science, 211(4478): 139-145.
  • Press, F. (1981). Science and technology in the White House, 1977 to 1980; Part 2. Science, 211(4479): 249-256.
  • Press, F. (1975.) Earthquake Prediction. Scientific American, 232(5): 14-23.
  • Press, F. (1974). Structure of the Earth and Moon: A Comparison. Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 55(4): 323.
  • Press, F. (1972). The Earth and the Moon. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 34(8): 732.
  • Press, F. and D.T. Griggs. (1959). Probing the earth with nuclear explosions. Rand Corporation. Issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as UCRL-6013.
  • Press, F. (1949).Two applications of normal mode sound propagation in the ocean, Columbia University Ph.D.; via ProQuest; oclc: 6364305.


  • American Institute of Physics, "Frank Press", Array of Contemporary American Physicists.
  • Judith R. Goodstein, "A Conversation with Frank Press" Physics in Perspective, 6: 184-196. (2004).
  • Caltech Oral Histories, "Interview with Frank Press" (April 15, 1983).
  • American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archive, "Oral History Transcript - Dr. Frank Press"
  • Greenberg, Daniel S. (1979). "Interview: Frank Press". Omni (June 1979).
  • SEG Virtual Geoscience Center, "Biographies: Frank Press"
  • MIT News, "Press Wins Japan Prize" (March 17, 1993).


  1. ^ Langer, Emily, "Frank Press, a guiding force in U.S. science policy for years, dies at 95", Washington Post, January 31, 2020. Retrieved 2020-03-27.
  2. ^ "1981-1993 NAS President", National Academy of Sciences online.
  3. ^ Physics History Network
  4. ^ Al-Naimi, Ali (2016). Out of the Desert. Great Britain: Portfolio Penguin. p. 254. ISBN 9780241279250.
  5. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
H. Guyford Stever
Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
1977 - 1981
Succeeded by
George A. Keyworth, II
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
Philip Handler
President of the National Academy of Sciences
1981 - 1993
Succeeded by
Bruce Alberts

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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