home sitemap



Member of the

Paul Niggli Medal



Paul Niggli Medal

Medal Winners Paul Niggli Foundation Nominations Paul Niggli (1888 - 1953)



The Paul Niggli Medal is Switzerland’s most prestigious “young scientist award” in the Earth Sciences. Since the 100th birthday of Paul Niggli in 1988, it has been awarded annually by the Paul Niggli Foundation, through a committee under the auspices of the Swiss Society of Mineralogy and Petrology. The Paul Niggli Medal honors young geoscientists for outstanding achievements in the fields of mineralogy, geochemistry, petrology, resource geology or solid-earth geophysics and in the technical applications of these fields. The medal and a cash prize are awarded yearly at the Swiss Geoscience Meeting.



Medal Winners
2015 Marcel Frehner (now at ETH Zurich)
for his research combining rock physics, tectonics and numerical modelling of geological processes.
Citation by Stefan Schmalholz at the Swiss Geoscience Meeting in Basel to be published.


Baptiste Dafflon (now at Lawrence Berkely National Labs)
for his original research contributions to the geophysical exploration of aquifers and permafrost environments.
Citation in ELEMENTS and in the Swiss Journal of Geosciences


Boris J. P. Kaus (now part of Geophysics and Geodynamics Group at University of Mainz)
for his research linking geodynamics, structural geology, magmatic and metamorphic petrology and Earth surface processes through numerical modeling.
Citation in Elements


Christian Huber (now part of Geophysics Faculty at Georgia Tech)
for his research into magma chamber processes and volcanic eruptions, by integrating petrology with fluid dynamics of melts, crystals and hydrothermal fluids in novel numerical models.
Citation in Elements



Alain Burgisser (now part of Institut des Sciences de la Terre d'Orléans at CNRS Orléans)
for his research in volcanology, in particular his physical modeling of magma chamber processes and volcanic eruptions.
 Citation in Elements


Olivier Reubi (now part of Institut des sciences de la Terre  at Uni Lausanne )
for his research in volcanology, notably his innovative and rigorous application of melt inclusion geochemistry to decipher the origin of andesitic magmas.                                                       
Citation in Swiss Journal of Geosciences


Maria Schönbächler (now part of Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology at ETH Zurich)
in recognition of  her research on the  earliest history of our solar system and the differentiation of Earth’s core and  mantle, as deduced from the  mineralogy and isotope geochemistry of meteorites and  lunar samples, using novel  analytical techniques.
Citation in Swiss Journal of Geosciences

2006 Sébastien Pilet (now part of Institut des sciences de la Terre  at Uni Lausanne)
for his research on basalt petrogenesis and the geochemistry of the Earth’s mantle, notably his petrographic and mineral-chemical evidence for the role of mantle metasomatism in the generation of ocean island basalts.
 Citation in Swiss Journal of Geosciences
2005 Lukas Keller (now at  University of Applied Science, Winterthur)
für seine bahnbrechenden Beiträge zur Kristallingeologie und alpinen Tektonik, sowie zur Phasenpetrologie metamorpher Gesteine in den Zentralalpen.
Citation in SMPM

Olivier Bachmann (now part of Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology at ETH Zurich)
für seine wissenschaftlichen Leistungen in der Vulkanologie und magmatischen Petrologie saurer Magmen, und der Erforschung von dynamischen Prozessen in Magmenkammern und von Eruptionsmechanismen bei Caldera-Ausbrüchen.
Citation in SMPM


Andreas Audetat (now part of the Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry and Geophysics at University of Bayreuth)
in Anerkennung seiner Arbeiten zur hydrothermalen Geochemie und Lagerstättenkunde, insbesondere für seinen Beitrag an die Entwicklung der LA-ICPMS-Technik zur Untersuchung von Fluid-Einschlüssen und deren Anwendung auf magmatisch-hydrothermale Lagerstätten.
Citation in SMPM


Werner Halter (now at SwissClimate)
in Anerkennung seiner Leistungen auf den Gebiet der magmatisch-hydrothermalen Erzlagerstättengenese, mittles Feldarbeit, Laborexperimenten, thermodynamischen Modellrechnungen und der Entwicklung neuer mikroanalytischer Methoden für Schmelzeinschlüsse.
Citation in SMPM


Balz Kamber(now at Trinity College, Dublin)
in Anerkennung seiner Arbeiten zur Geochronologie von metamorphen Mineralien, sowie zur Wachstumsgeschichte der kontinentalen Kruste, durch Integration von Mineralogie Petrographie und geochemischer Modellierung.
Citation in SMPM


Othmar Muntener (now part of Institut des Sciences de la Terre (ISTE) at Université de Lausanne and Jörg Hermann (now part of The Research School of Earth Sciences at Australian National University (ANU)
in Anerkennung ihrer Arbeiten über petrologische und strukturgeologische Beziehungen zwischen Erdmantel und Erdkruste in den Alpen sowie über die Exhumation tiefliegender Gesteine bei der Bildung passiver Kontinentalränder. 
Citation in SMPM


Jean-Claude Vannay (Now with Rio Tinto Exploration)
in Anerkennung seiner Forschungstätigkeit in den Alpen und im Himalaya, vor allem für seinen Beitrag zur petrologischen Deutung der inversen Metamorphose am Main Central Thrust mit  Hilfe von Thermobarometrie und stabilen Isotopen.
Citation in SMPM


Martin Kunz (now part of Lawrence Berkely National Labs)
in Anerkennung seiner kristallographischen Arbeiten zur Ordnung von Al und Si in Feldspäten, zur experimentellen Kristallchemie von d°-Übergangsmetallen und zur Hochdruck-Hochtemperatur-Kristallchemie.
Citation in SMPM


Reto Giere (part of Institut für Geowissenschaften Mineralogie - Geochemie at Uni Freiburg) für seine wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten zur quantitativen Erfassung der Umwandlung, Verdrängung und Verwitterung von Mineralien durch hydrothermale Prozessen in Kontaktaureolen granitoider Intrusionen.
Citation in SMPM


Peter Ulmer (part of Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology at ETH Zurich)
in Anerkennung seiner Arbeiten über Differentiationsprozesse kalk-alkaliner und alkaliner Magmen sowie seiner grundlegenden Experimente zur Bestimmung der Gleichgewichtsphasen und deren physikalischen Eigenschaften in magmatischen Systemen.
Citation in SMPM


Beda A. Hofmann (now at Museum of Natural History and Uni Bern)
in Anerkennung seiner erzmineralogischen Untersuchungen, speziell der geochemischen Ursachen von Verwitterungserscheinungen in Erzlagerstätten, der Bildung von Reduktionshöfen in Redbeds und des Transports seltener Elemente und Kolloide durch Grundwasser.
Citation in SMPM


Lukas Baumgartner (part of Institut des sciences de la Terre at Uni Lausanne)
in Anerkennung seiner Arbeiten über geochemische und thermodynamische Grundlagen der Metamorphose, Gleichgewichtmodelle fluider Phasen mit Mineralien bei hohem Druck und hoher Temperatur und über den Transport stabiler Isotope.
Citation in SMPM


Christoph A. Heinrich (part of Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology at ETH Zürich and Uni Zurich)
Als ersten Preisträger wählte der Stiftungsrat Christoph A. Heinrich, in Anerkennung seiner wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten über die petrologische Entwicklung eklogitischer Gesteine, über Hochdruckmetamorphose im allgemeinen, sowie über die Geochemie von Arsen in hydrothermalen Erzlagerstätten.
Citation in SMPM



The Paul Niggli Foundation

The Paul Niggli Foundation supports and honors young ambassadors of Swiss geoscience. Generous bequests of the families of Paul Niggli (1888-1953), Hedi Fritz - Niggli (1921-2005), Ernst Niggli (1917-2001) and Francis de Quervain (1902-1984) supplemented the initial contribution by Swiss industries, who established the Foundation in 1943.

Many winners of the Paul Niggli Medal have become international leaders in academia or industry, including some of the present members of the Board of the Paul Niggli Foundation. The Board members are nominated by industry, universities, the Swiss Society of Mineralogy and Petrology (SSMP) and the Swiss Geotechnical Commission (SGTK). They presently include Marianne Niggli (MBN, Baden), Lukas Baumgartner (Uni Lausanne), Christian De Capitani (Uni Basel), Martin Engi (Uni Bern), Christoph Heinrich (ETH Zürich , president), Klaus Holliger (Uni Lausanne), Thomas Imbach (Holcim, Holderbank), Rainer Kündig (SGTK , Zürich) and Urs Schaltegger (Uni Geneva). Past presidents included Walter Oberholzer, Volkmar Trommsdorff and Thomas Armbruster.





Since 1988, the Paul Niggli Medal is awarded annually, based on proposals from the scientific community.  The Board of the Foundation accepts nominations any time and elects a medalist at its annual meeting in spring.
Nomination letters should be accompanied by a curriculum vitae, the publication list of the proposed scientist and possibly additional support letters, which should be mailed to heinrich@erdw.ethz.ch. According to the current statutes, eligible candidates are up to 35 years old or have received their doctorate in the last 6 years. They are either Swiss citizens or have obtained at least two of their academic degrees in the Swiss university system (BSc or MSc and usually their PhD). The award ceremony usually takes place during the plenary session of the annual Swiss Geoscience Meeting.




Paul Niggli (1888-1953)


A great Swiss mineralogist linking earth sciences with chemistry and physics



Paul NiggliNiggli was born on 26th of June 1888 and died on 13th of January 1953. His education began in Zofingen and Aarau, before he took up his studies at ETH Zurich in 1907, which he successfully completed in 1911. His teachers were at that time no lesser than Albert Einstein, Pierre Weiss and several other great scientists. After a brief residency at the Institute of Physical Chemistry in Karlsruhe he was awarded a doctorate at the University of Zurich. Unusual for his time, he further opened his scientific horizon with of post-doctoral research studies overseas, at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institute of Washington. After returning to Switzerland,he submitted his habilitation at ETH Zurich in 1913 and obtained his venia legendi also at University of Zurich shortly after. He then held associate professorships at the universities of Leipzig and Tübingen for a few years.

In 1920, with only 32 years of age, he was elected as the successor of Professor Ulrich Grubenmann, to lead the Institute of Mineralogy and Crystallography in Zürich, in the then new building ‘Naturwissenschaften Ost’ on Clausiusstrasse. He held this joint professorship at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich for 32 years through to his death in 1953, despite tempting offers from the most significant universities in Germany. He was a founding member of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and for the years of  1928 to 1931 he held the seat of the Rector of ETH Zurich.

Niggli was a crystallographer and mineralogist, but also broad thinker across disciplines in the earth sciences. Starting out from field geology, he worked in mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, crystal structure systematics and crystal morphology, by linking these fields with quantitative chemistry and physics. He also applied his interests in earth materials research to practical applications including the geology of mineral resources, the behaviour of snow and avalanches and the origin of silicosis disease. In all these areas he has published specialised papers, besides writing several authoritative textbooks. He introduced the concept of geochemical norm calculation, the eponymous "niggli values", which became used all over the world to classify igneous rock compositions. Besides his research and university lecturing, he was deeply engaged in promoting scientific education in schools and the broader community.

In 1948, Paus Niggli was awarded the Roebling Medal  of the Mineralogical Society of America, the first European to obtain this highest international honour in the mineralogical sciences. As a further recognition, Dorsum Niggli on the Moon was named after him. He was had two children, both of whom became significant scientists and educators: Hedi Fritz – Niggli (1921-2005) and Ernst Niggli   (1917-2001)

Further information and links to selected scientific work at: ETH Library Citation by Edward H. Kraus on occasion of the 1948 Roebling Medal awarded to Paul Niggli. Obituary by Fritz Laves in Experientia 15. V. 1953, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 197-198










Paul Niggli Medaille