High award for Rolf Emmermann

Merits of an outstanding geoscientist

Prof. Dr. Dr.hc Rolf Emmermann © GFZ Potsdam
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In a solemn ceremony, Professor dr. Dr. hc Rolf Emmermann was awarded the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany today in the GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ) Potsdam. The Federal Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan presented him with the honor for his extraordinary contribution to the development and reorganization of geosciences in Germany.

"With Professor Emmermann, a personality is honored that has significantly shaped the geosciences in Germany, " said Schavan. "The high international reputation of the German geosciences is based to a large extent on Rolf Emmermann's initiatives." At the ceremony, the Minister President of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck, the Minister of Science, Research and Culture of Brandenburg, Johanna Wanka, Potsdam Mayor Jann Jakobs and other public figures.

Founding of the GFZ

Inextricably linked with the name Emmermanns is the conception, the foundation and the structure of the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam. Under the direction of Emmermann, this body belonging to the Helmholtz Association has developed into the internationally established central research center for geosciences in Germany since its founding in 1992.

In the course of German reunification in the early 1990s, several leading German geoscientists under the leadership of Emmermann designed a concept for a major research facility to study the Earth system. Emmermann then became the founding director of the GeoForschungsZentrum on the traditional Potsdam Telegrafenberg.

The Continental Deep Drilling Program of the Federal Republic of Germany

Emmermann brought with him the necessary scientific and organizational background from another major project in the geosciences, which was essentially initiated by him and conducted under his leadership: the Continental Deep Drilling Program of the Federal Republic of Germany (KTB), from 1996 onwards the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) was developed. display

KTB-derrick © GFZ Potsdam

The KTB was at that time the largest German geo-research project to date. The KTB has developed numerous technologies and patents of the drilling industry. With the know-how of the KTB, under the leadership of Emmermann, the GFZ was in a position to design a large-scale international scientific drilling program with a variety of geoscientific questions. In February 1996, the founding treaty of the ICDP was signed in Tokyo. In addition to Germany, the United States and the People's Republic of China were founding members. The aim of the program, in line with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program IODP, is to investigate global geoscientific issues at the most suitable continental locations. Today, 16 nations are members of the ICDP. Twenty-two drilling projects, 43 major international workshops, training courses and more than 1, 000 participating scientists are testimony to the quality of the program. Emmermann chairs the Executive Committee, which organizes the scientific leadership of the ICDP.

The tsunami in the Indian Ocean 2004


The initiation and management of the large-scale project for setting up a "Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean" also goes back to Emmermann. The number of more than 230, 000 victims of the disaster of December 26, 2004, drastically clarified the need for such a early warning system in the region. Immediately after the disaster, a consortium of German geoscientists and marine scientists headed by Emmermann designed the concept for the warning system known today as the GITEWS (German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System) and was able to do so in January 2005, just under three weeks ago after the disaster, introduce the chancellor.

The Helmholtz Association, represented by the GFZ under the direction of Emmermann, was finally assigned the task of setting up the warning system as the central part of the German flood relief organization. Since then, the GFZ Potsdam, together with the other important geo and marine research institutions in Germany, some SME companies and partners abroad, is working to build up the tsunami early warning system. The GITEWS is well on its way, work is progressing according to plan and operational operations can begin at the end of 2008. Numerous innovative technologies and processes have already been successfully developed.


The conception of the GEOTECHNOLOGIEN program, a joint R & D program funded by the DFG and the BMBF, as a new major research project in geosciences in Germany, also goes back to Emmermann's initiative. This is the first time that the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research have come together to form a jointly supported and long-term support program. Promotional decisions are shared in this program, there is a joint steering committee and jointly elected panels of experts.

The establishment of this support program, under the leadership of Emmermann Universities and non-university research institutes, has successfully established a research concept and a jointly adopted strategy is one of the outstanding examples of the integration of a very diversified scientific landscape, as the Earth sciences in Germany are.

Farewell to the GFZ Potsdam

The ceremony was also the official farewell Emmermanns GFZ Potsdam. Since June 2007, the leadership of the GFZ has been in the hands of Professor Reinhard H ttl, who commends the work of his predecessor as follows: Specially in one person focuses as much scientific contemporary history as in Rolf Emmermann. The construction of the GFZ alone is an enormous achievement. But all major projects in the hands of Professor Emmermann were due to his strategic vision of an impossible integration of the geosciences of Germany to the result. If today we no longer see geosciences in our country as a conglomeration of individual disciplines, but rather under a thematic and problem-oriented approach with a strong societal relevance, then that is to no small part Rolf Emmermann's merit and, at the same time, a commitment to the future. "

(GFZ Potsdam, 08.01.2008 - DLO)