The 2020 Petrus Peregrinus Medal is awarded to Rixiang Zhu for his outstanding accomplishments in magnetism and paleomagnetism and his extraordinary support of the scientific community.
Rixiang Zhu has established new standards for advancing research in magnetism and palaeomagnetism and international scientific collaboration. His contributions in palaeomagnetism are both impressive and broad. His pioneering magnetostratigraphic studies provided the key temporal framework needed to trace human migrations in East Asia, dating occupations in northern and southern China at 1.66 and 1.70 million years go, respectively. Zhu has also provided foundational contributions on geomagnetic field behavior as recorded in Chinese loess, absolute palaeointensity in China to understand the long-term nature of the geomagnetic field, and palaeomagnetic constraints on the tectonic evolution of Asia, especially on the disruption of the North China craton.
While pursuing his research, Zhu formed a renowned research group integrating geochronology and biogeomagnetism with palaeomagnetism and rock magnetism at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He then founded a programme of international collaboration that included the Beijing International Paleomagnetism Earth and Planetary Interior Symposia, which have become a focal point for the community and motivated new global research.
Outstanding support for junior researchers has been a quintessential part of the programmes initiated by Zhu. He has advanced the careers of a generation of scientists, both from China and abroad, many of whom have become scientific leaders with their own signature programs. Rixiang Zhu has thus initiated an extraordinary academic lineage that will extend for many decades to come, extending our understanding of Earth’s surface environment and deep interior.