Paul Tapponnier is one of the foremost scientists of his generation in neotectonics. His discovery of active faults in and around Tibet that are accommodating the collision of India into Asia revolutionized the scientific understanding of Asia’s tectonics. His research provided a consistent model of large-scale crustal deformation processes between the Himalayas and Baykal, all the way to the East China Sea. The model was subsequently extended to include most of Southeast Asia, based on innovative analog experiments. In combination with his studies in Mediterranean Sea, his work confirms that propagation of new faults over hundreds of kilometers is an essential element of continental tectonics.
Prof. Tapponnier pioneered the use of satellite imagery to study large-scale tectonics, which set the standard for modern methods of tectonic research.

  • PhD - Doctorat d'Etat, Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Montpellier, 1978 ("Intracontinental Tectonics in Alpine Europe and Asia", with honours)
  • M.S. Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris (Major: Geology – Geophysics), 1970
  • Ingénieur Civil des Mines de Paris
Professional Experience:
  • 2009 – Present : Full Professor and Head of Tectonics and Earthquake Research, Earth Observatory of Singapore (an institute of Nanyang Technological University)
  • 1991 – 2009
    • Director of the Tectonics Department, Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris
    • Full Professor with tenure (Physicien, classe exceptionnelle), Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (since 1991)
    • Director (1984-1996, 2001-2004) of Unité Mixte de Recherche 7578, "Tectonique, Mécanique de la Lithosphère" (one of the research Laboratory of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    • Distinguished visiting scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    • January - July 2000 : invited professor, Caltech, USA
    • February 2008 - April 2009 : invited professor, Schlumberger/Saudi Aramco, KSA
  • 1986 – 1990 Full Professor, (Physicien Titulaire, 2nd then 1st class), Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, tenured.
  • 1980 – 1985 Associate Professor (Physicien Adjoint), Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, with tenure.
  • 1978 – 1980 Assistant Professor, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.
  • 1976 – 1978 Research Fellow, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Montpellier.
  • 1975 – 1976 Master Assistant, Laboratoire de Géologie Structurale, Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Montpellier.
  • 1973 – 1975 Visiting Research Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences).
  • 1971 – 1973 Assistant, Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Laboratoire de Géologie Structurale, Montpellier.
  • 1970 – 1971 Assistant, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Ponts & Chaussées (Géologie appliquée, Génie civil).
Professional Activities:
  • Société Géologique de France
  • Académie des Sciences
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Geological Society of America
  • Geological Society of London
  • European Union of Geosciences
Courses Taught:
  • ES7006 - Active Tectonics 

Past courses:

  • Universités de Paris VI, VII, and Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (1979 – present) :
    • Plate tectonics and structural geology
    • Physics of brittle and ductile deformations
    • Continental seismicity and tectonics, mechanics of the Lithosphere.
    • Remote sensing, analysis of morphology and climate change, and of active faulting and crustal structure
  • Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Montpellier(1971-73, 1975-78) :
    • Field and Laboratory Methods in Structural Geology
    • Elementary Mathematics for Geology
    • Tectonophysics
    • Rock Mechanics
Honours and Awards:
  • 2012 Honorary Member of the Nepal Geological Society
  • 2011 Einstein Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • 2008 Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of London
  • 2005 Member of the French Academy of sciences (Corresponding member since 1994)
  • 2005 Foreign associate Member of the National Academy of Science (USA)
  • 2001 Lyell Medal, Geological Society, London
  • 1999 Francis Birch Lecturer, American Geophysical Union
  • 1998 Friendship Medal, People's Republic of China
  • 1996 Honorary Fellow of Geological Society of America
  • 1994 Fellow of American Geophysical Union
  • 1994 Best Paper award, Geological Society of America
  • 1991 Knight of National Order of Legion of Honour, France
  • 1990 Grand Prix Scientifique de la ville de Paris
  • 1985 "Alfred Wegener" Medal of European Union of Geosciences
  • 1984 Silver Medal of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France