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Past Winner
2011 NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

W. Richard Peltier


University of Toronto

W. Richard Peltier
W. Richard Peltier

What do our planet’s interior, surface plate tectonics, the life cycle of glaciers, and ocean circulation have in common? Quite a bit, as demonstrated by Richard Peltier, who recognized early in his research career the deep interrelationship between land-surface processes, continental ice sheets, sea ice, and the circulations of the oceans and atmosphere.

The renowned University of Toronto physics professor has helped pioneer Earth system science—which brings together atmospheric science, oceanography, geophysics, geochemistry, geology, hydrology and glaciology to understand how the Earth works as an integrated system. Highly cited and respected for his seminal contributions to geophysics, atmospheric physics and climate change research, he is credited with spawning an entirely new sub-discipline in the solid Earth and climate dynamical sciences. His achievements earned him the 2011 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering from NSERC.

Dr. Peltier is internationally recognized for generating original understanding of ice-age geodynamics. His model of the changes in planetary shape caused by continental ice-sheet evolution employs sophisticated mathematical concepts to depict how our climate has evolved over the past 750 million years, and project what is likely to happen in the future if climate change continues.

He is the founding Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Global Change Science and a much-sought-after speaker. His extraordinary academic achievements have been matched by his leadership of three national research networks in Canada, and his mentorship of more than 30 doctoral students and an equal number of postdoctoral fellows.

Dr. Peltier’s revolutionary work has earned him national and international awards including, in 2010, the prestigious Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, which has also honoured such researchers as Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. In 2002, he was awarded the Vetlesen Prize, which is often referred to as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the Earth sciences.