Santa Fe Institute


Research Themes

Interest Areas

  • Complex Systems
  • Physics
  • Sustainability
  • Theoretical physics, computational physics, nonlinear science, theoretical life science

Hans Joachim (John) Schellnhuber

External Professor

Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research


Born in 1950 in Ortenburg (Germany). Training in physics and mathematics with a scholarship for the exceptionally gifted at Regensburg University. Doctorate in Theoretical Physics in 1980. Various periods of research abroad, in particular at several institutions of the University of California system (USA). Habilitation (German qualification for professorial status) in 1985, then Heisenberg Fellowship. 1989 Full Professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Sciences (ICBM) of Oldenburg University, later Director of the ICBM.

1991 Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK); since 1993 Director of PIK and Professor for Theoretical Physics at Potsdam University. 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 in Norwich (UK). From 2005 - 2009 Visiting Professor in Physics and Visiting Fellow of Christ Church College at Oxford University as well as Distinguished Science Advisor for the Tyndall Centre.

2002 Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award; 2004 CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) awarded by Queen Elizabeth II; 2007 German Environment Prize; 2008 Order of Merit (“Roter Adlerorden”) of the State of Brandenburg; 2009 "Ambassador of Science" of the State of Brandenburg. Elected Member of the Max Planck Society, the German National Academy (Leopoldina), the US National Academy of Sciences, the Leibniz-Sozietät, the Geological Society of London, and the International Research Society Sigma Xi. Ambassador for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). Longstanding Member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who was awarded the Peace Nobel Prize in 2007.

Active service on numerous national and international panels for scientific strategies and policy advice on environment & development matters. Selected previous and current engagements: Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU); Chair of the Global Change Advisory Group for the 6th Framework Programme of the European Commission, Member of the corresponding panel for FP7; Member of the Committee on Scientific Planning and Review of the International Council for Science (ICSU); Member of the Environment Steering Panel of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC); Member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Climate Change; Member of the Grantham Research Institute Advisory Board.

Chief Government Advisor on Climate & Related Issues for the German G8-EU twin presidency in 2007; Member of the High-Level Expert Group on Energy & Climate Change advising J.M. Barroso, President of the European Commission.

Member of the Editorial Boards of the scientific journals “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, “Climatic Change”, “Climate Policy”, “Gaia”, “Integrated Assessment”, “Systems Analysis, Modelling, Simulation” and “Europe’s World”.

About 210 articles and more than 40 books in the fields of condensed matter physics, complex systems dynamics, climate change research, Earth System analysis, and sustainability science.


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