Photo of Frank Press

Frank Press

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his contributions to the understanding of the deepest interior of the earth and the mitigation of natural disasters, and his service in academia, as a government official, and at the National Academy of Sciences.

As a child, Frank Press was an avid reader of adventure stories and fairy tales, and later on turned to Popular Science magazine and how-to books. In school, Press says, he didn’t start doing well until the sixth grade. “I got a pair of glasses,” he recounted in an interview. Prior to that, he couldn’t see the blackboard!

In college, Press enjoyed physics and geology, in particular the ability to use physics outdoors. A geology teacher tasked him with taking a magnetic survey of Van Cortland Park, and Press was immediately drawn to being able to use physics and explore his surroundings—it was the start of his career in geophysics.

Press designed the long-period seismograph for detecting earthquakes, where resonant frequencies are very low. His research also led to the first detection of the Earth’s normal modes of oscillation, pioneering the application of digital processing to seismic recordings. Press was also closely involved in the construction of a lunar seismograph, first deployed with Apollo 11.

By Jen Santisi