Inge Lehmann (1888-1993)

Much like some students today, Inge Lehmann did not carve out a career in the same field as her university education. Danish born, she soon left behind studies in mathematics, and a job in the insurance industry to take a position as an assistant to a Geodesist, someone who studies the earth sciences.

Earth sciences of this nature involve looking at crustal motion, tides, polar motion, and the shape and size of the earth. Lehmann’s first task was to set up seismological observatories, one located in Denmark, and the other sited in Greenland, and it was from this work, that she developed her love of seismology. Once she was qualified in geodesy, she gained a position as state geodesist, and also worked in the Department of Seismology in the Geodetical Institute of Denmark.

Notable points in her career include the publication of a paper titled ‘P’, which looked at the Earth’s core and P Waves, and her work in America with Maurice Ewing and Frank Press, where they carried out investigations into the Earth’s crust and upper mantle. She was known for her outstanding and exacting scrutiny of seismic records, and is credited with a valuable discovery concerning the Earth’s core. Lehmann discovered our Earth’s inner core, and its notably different properties compared to the outer core. This and other work was recognised with a list of career honours, which featured the Harry Oscar Wood Award in 1960, and a Gold Medal from the Danish Royal Society of Science and Letters in 1965.