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Prof. Dr.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Year of election: 2007
Section: Physics
City: Potsdam
Country: Germany
CV Hans Joachim Schellnhuber - Deutsch (pdf)
CV Hans Joachim Schellnhuber - English (pdf)


Main Research Interests: Condensed matter physics, complex systems dynamics, climate change research, Earth System analysis, sustainability science

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has made numerous important contributions to theoretical physics, both to the foundations of the field (condensed matter, complex dynamics) and to its applications (climate & environmental systems analysis). His research in solid state physics (inter alia, at UC Santa Barbara’s ITP) focused on the behaviour of electrons in almost periodic/fractal fields and generated crucial results on the Fibonacci Hamiltonian and the Frenkel-Kontorova chain.

Schellnhuber conducted his more applied research particularly at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which he founded in 1992 and which he has headed ever since (partly in parallel to engagements abroad, such as the director post at the British Tyndall Centre). The topical foci in this context are stability analysis of the Earth System, climate impacts assessment and sustainability science. Schellnhuber’s ideas have been seminal for the international development of those areas. Only recently, he was able to demonstrate (together with colleagues from several countries) that unabated anthropogenic global warming is likely to activate large-scale tipping elements, thereby triggering irreversible environmental impacts.

Foto: IASS


  • since 1993 Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in conjunction with a Chair for Theoretical Physics at the University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 2005-2009 Visiting Professor for Physics, Honorary Member of Christ Church College and Senior James Martin Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK
  • 2001-2005 Additional engagement as Research Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Professor at the Environmental sciences School of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  • 1992 Managing Director of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Coastal Environment Studies (ICBM), University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • 1991 Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany
  • 1988-1993 Full Professor for Theoretical Physics, University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • 1987-1989 Fellow of the Heisenberg Programme of the German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • 1987-1988 Visiting Professor at the Institute of Nonlinear Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
  • 1982-1987 Assistant Professor in the Physics Department, University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • 1985 Habilitation (Qualification as University Lecturer) for Theoretical Physics, University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • 1981-1982 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Theoretical Physics (ITP), University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
  • 1980 Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, University of Regensburg, Germany
  • 1976–1981 Scientific Assistant in the Physics Department, University of Regensburg, Germany
  • 1976 Physics Degree (First Class Honours)
  • 1971-1976 Student Assistant in the Physics Department, University of Regensburg, Germany
  • 1970-1976 Study of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Regensburg, Germany

Honours and Memberships

  • 2017 Blue Planet Prize of the Asahi Glass Foundation, Japan
  • since 2015 Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican City
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2011 Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • 2011 Volvo Environment Prize
  • 2009 Ambassador of Science of the State of Brandenburg, Germany
  • 2008 Order of Merit (“Roter-Adler-Orden”) of the State of Brandenburg, Germany
  • 2008 Environment Prize of the Bundesdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Umweltbewusstes Management (B.A.U.M)
  • 2007 German Environment Prize by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU)
  • 2004 Honorary CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) awarded by Queen Elizabeth II
  • 2002 Wolfson Research Merit Award and Research Fellowship of the Royal Society
  • 1987 Heisenberg Fellowship of the German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • 1970 Bavarian Scholarship for the Exceptionally Gifted




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