This is the ultimate biography of Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann. On this page, you can uncover her discoveries and learn why she hated men. Please share this biography with your friends on social media because what you share matters and because your shares help us grow.
Danish seismologist and geophysicist Inge Lehmann attended a progressive coed high school in Copenhagen, Denmark. The high school’s curriculum, considered revolutionary and unheard of at the time, centered on treating male and female students equally. Lehmann credited her primary education for giving her the confidence to strike out in a field largely dominated by men.
Despite attending a high school that regarded men and women as equals, Lehmann disdained many men with whom she worked. She considered them to be incompetent and a burden to her scientific pursuits. She would lament to friends that she had to put up with so many incompetent and unskilled men in her daily pursuits. As a matter of fact, Inge Lehmann was so fed up with stupid men that she said the following quote:
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This talented scientist did not view her inability to see well as a burden, however. Lehmann went blind in her later life. Her friends and peers noted that she continued her life as if nothing had changed despite the fact that she could no longer see.
Lehmann became an expert on earthquakes in Denmark. She experienced her first earthquake as a child and became fascinated with these geological occurrences. She studied earthquakes in Denmark and became an expert on them even though Denmark does not experience earthquakes often.
Inge Lehmann Accomplishments
Inge Lehmann achieved many accomplishments during her long and respectable career as a seismologist and geophysicist. Aside from her geophysical discoveries, she helped found the Danish Geophysical Society, which is still in operation today.
She also helped establish several seismological stations in Greenland during a time when women did not travel to or work in this part of the globe. Along with helping to set up the stations, she also prepared the instruments that would be used to study the earth’s core under the Arctic region.
Lehman additionally developed numerous models of the world that helped scientists better understand P waves, or Pressure Waves, as well as S waves, or shear waves. Her creation of two and three-dimensional geophysical models and explanation of theories that scientists commonly struggled with led to her peers calling her a master of black art.
Lehmann never officially retired from her seismological work. She continued her studies long after the point in her life when other people her age would retire. She celebrated her 100th birthday at the Geodetic Institute, which was her former employer.
This talented seismologist wrote her last scientific article when she was 99 years old. The article is entitled “Seismology in the Days of Old." It was published in 1987.
Inge Lehmann Contributions To Seismology And Geophysical Sciences
Inge Lehmann discovered that the Earth has a solid core instead of a core that consists of molten liquid. Before her discovery, scientists believed that the core was molten instead of solid.
She made this discovery by studying the seismic waves under the Earth’s surface. Based on her findings, she theorized that the core must be solid rather than molten liquid.
She studied these waves at a depth of 190 to 250 kilometers below the surface of the Earth. The discontinuity that she discovered in the waves was named after her.
Lehmann’s Discontinuity is still a theory that is used today in seismology. It expains the abrupt increase of P and S waves under continents but not under the surfaces of the Earth’s oceans.
Her theory has been tested dozens of times by other seismologists and scientists. It has upheld the test of time and is now largely accepted without question in this field of science.
Fellow seismologist Francis Birch noted that no computer could replicate the findings of Lehmann’s Discontinuity. Birch is one of Lehmann’s peers who solidified her reputation as a master of black art.
Inge Lehmann Early Life
Inge Lehmann was born in 1888 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her father was a renowned experimental psychologist. She later credited her father as someone who influenced her intellectual development.
This talented scientist studied mathematics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the University of Cambridge in the UK. However, she did not enjoy good health in her youth. So she was forced to take time away from her studies to recuperate.
During her sabbatical, she took actuarial courses and became proficient in computation skills. Later in her life, Inge Lehmann would work as an actuary for several Danish insurance companies.
She resumed her studies at Newnham University when she returned to Denmark in 1923. She graduated from university and became an academic assistant to J.F. Steffensen, a professor of actuarial science.
Her peers reported that she was shy and did not like attention even after she became well-known for her seismological and geophysical work. She liked to travel around the world to study the Earth’s movements and what earthquakes were like in other parts of the globe.
Her early work was interrupted by World War II. She lived to be 104 and died in 1993. She is the longest-lived woman scientist as of 2017.
Inge Lehmann Honors And Memorials
Inge Lehmann received numerous awards during her long career. She received several awards from the Danish royal family like the Danish Royal Society of Science and Letters gold medal. She was also appointed a fellow to the Danish Royal Society.
Lehmann likewise received dozens of academic and civil recognitions. She was awarded the Gordon Wood award in 1960 and the Emil Weichart medal in 1964. She later received the William Bowie medal and the Seismological Society of America medals in recognition for her work in seismology.
The University of Copenhagen and the University of Columbia both granted her honorary doctorates. Lehmann posthumously had an asteroid named after her in 2015, 5632 Ingelehmann.
Danish entomologists also named a species of beetles after her, the Globicornis ingelehmannae. Finally, the American Geophysical Union created an award in her honor, the Inge Lehmann medal, in 1997.
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