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Tilman Spohn

Tilman Spohn
Tilman Spohn

The 2013 Runcorn-Florensky Medal is awarded to Tilman Spohn for fundamental contributions to the study of the interior structures of terrestrial planets and outer satellites and for pioneering work in modelling their thermal evolution.

Tilman Spohn is a world leader in the study of the interior structures of terrestrial planets and outer satellites who pioneered work in modelling the thermal evolution of the Earth and provided quantitative thermal histories of terrestrial planets and satellites. By coupling for the first time thermal evolution and dynamo activity, he proposed an explanation for Venus’ lack of a magnetic field which is now widely accepted. Spohn has also played a prominent role in our understanding of the orbital and thermal history of Jupiter’s moon Io by calculating its tidally induced heating. He also determined the existence and size of Io’s iron core and was able to explain the absence of magnetic field of this moon as a consequence of the high temperature of its mantle. Spohn also investigated in detail the thermal history and internal structure of outer solar system icy satellites, and has recently expanded this research to the study of terrestrial extrasolar planets.

One characteristic of Spohn’s research is his commitment to constraining his theoretical models with key measurements. With this purpose, he moved to Berlin to develop a laboratory in planetary science. Under his leadership, in less than ten years, this laboratory engaged in several planetary space missions. Spohn is involved in a number of space experiments and he is, in particular, the co-PI of the Laser Altimeter instrument (BELA) on the ESA Bepi Colombo mission. Being renowned as a great scientist, Spohn was elected as chair of the AGU Planetary Division, and he has been the chairman of ESA’s Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC). He is also an editor of the Journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Spohn has made breakthrough advances in the field of planetary sciences, and has published reference papers on the interior structures of planets and moons. He has moved forward with the development of instruments that can make the measurements to constrain models and to improve our understanding of the evolution of planets and moons. He is playing an active role in applying his knowledge of planetary internal evolution to the field of extrasolar terrestrial planets and astrobiology. Therefore, in recognition of his important work in planetary sciences and his leading role in the development of planetary exploration in Europe, Tilman Spohn is a worthy Runcorn–Florensky medallist.