Harald Sverdrup

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Harald Ulrik Sverdrup (15 November 1888 – 21 August 1957) was a Norwegian oceanographer and meteorologist who made a number of important theoretical discoveries in these fields. Having first worked in Bergen and Leipzig he was involved in the North Polar expedition of Roald Amundsen between 1917 and 1925, before taking the chair in meteorology at Bergen, where his primary interest slowly became oceanography.

He was made director of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1936, initially for 3 years but the intervention of World War II meant he held the post until 1948. During 33 expeditions with the research vessel E. W. Scripps in the years 1938-1941 he produced a detailed oceanographic dataset off the coast of California. He also developed the theory of ocean circulation known as Sverdrup balance, the first truly accurate description of the phenomenon. After leaving SIO, he returned home to become director of the Norwegian Polar Institute and continued to contribute to oceanography, ocean biology and polar research.

His many publications include the magnum opus The Oceans: Their Physics, Chemistry and General Biology by Harald Sverdrup, Martin W. Johnson and Richard H. Fleming (1942, new edition 1970).

He was a member of the American and Norwegian Academies of Science and the Swedish Order of the Polar Star. The sverdrup, a unit of volume transport, bears his name, as does the American Meteorological Society's Sverdrup Gold Medal Award.

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