Cesare Emiliani (1922-1995), an Italian paleoceanographer who used Urey's oxygen isotope to discover that the temperature of the ocean and the ice masses on Earth changed through time in cycles and showed that these cycles could be recognized and correlated throughout the Atlantic. He is widely regarded as the father of paleoceanography.
In 1948 he received the Rollin D. Salisbury Fellowship in the Department of Geology at the University of Chicago and obtained the Ph.D. in 1950. From 1950 to 1956 he was Research Associate in Harold Urey's Geochemistry Laboratory in the Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. It was in this laboratory that the pioneering work was being done to establish relationships between stable isotopes and environmental variables. The early work of Urey and his students had involved studies of the relation between oxygen isotopes and temperature in recent molluscs, and the application of this relationship to the determination of paleotemperatures in the Cretaceous. Emiliani initiated use of this technique to the shells of foraminifera in ancient sediments from the ocean floor and concluded that the deep waters of the ocean had been much warmer in the early Tertiary. The discovery that the deep ocean was not the constant unchanging environment that had been assumed marked the beginning of paleoceanography as a new field of science.
Using core samples from ocean sediments, Emiliani research analysis indicated that there had been many more cycles of glaciation than conventional wisdom held; he found seven, extending to the base of the Caribbean cores and fifteen in the Pacific cores. He concluded that the cyclic glaciations were related to orogenic uplift, changing insolation (Milankovitch cycles), ice-albedo feedback, and the effect of isostatic adjustments to the loading of continental crust by glacial ice sheets—all topics still being actively discussed today. His discoveries revolutionized ideas about the history of the ocean and glaciation.
Emiliani was honored by having the genus Emiliania erected as home for the taxon huxleyi, which had previously been assigned to Coccolithus. He was further honored by receiving the Vega Medal (Sweden) in 1983, and the Agaasiz Medal of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1989.
- Emiliani, Cesare. 1992. Planet Earth : Cosmology, Geology, & the Evolution of Life & the Environment. Cambridge University Press. Paperback Edition: ISBN: 0521409497.
- Emiliani, Cesare. 1995. The Scientific Companion : Exploring the Physical World with Facts, Figures, and Formulas (Wiley Popular Science) (2nd Edition). Wiley. Paperback Edition: ISBN: 0471133248.
- Emiliani, Cesare. 1993. Dictionary of Physical Sciences. Oxford University Press. Paperback Edition: ISBN: 0195036522.