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This is a photograph of Vagn Ekman, Swedish oceanographer, 1874-1954.
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Vagn Walfrid Ekman

Vagn Walfrid Ekman was born in Sweden on May 3, 1874. He was an oceanographer who is best known for studying how the Coriolis force affects ocean currents. Originally, he was interested in trying to understand why icebergs do not drift in the direction of the prevailing wind. He found out this was due to the Coriolis force.

Ekman’s theory of how wind causes movement of water near the ocean surface, and how the movement of one water layer affects lower layers, has been expanded by many oceanographers in the past century. So the overall process of wind causing the movement of water near the surface of the ocean has come to be called Ekman transport. When Ekman transport occurs near a coast, it can create an upwelling of nutrient-rich water from the deeper layers of the ocean, and this creates a region that is very good for ocean life.

Ekman made other key contributions to oceanography, including a study of how the fresh water from melting icebergs could slow or stop ships (this is called ‘dead water’). He also invented several important instruments and some of his inventions are still in use today.

Besides his great interest in oceans, Ekman was very interested in music. He was known to be a very good singer, pianist and even composer!

He passed away on March 9, 1954.

Last modified September 10, 2008 by Jennifer Bergman.

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