Press studied at the City College of New York (Bachelor 1944) and at Columbia University, where he 1946 he received his master's degree in 1949 and made his doctorate in geophysics. From 1945 he was Assistant and later Associate Professor at Columbia University ( Lamont - Doherty Earth Observatory ) with Maurice Ewing. From 1955 he was professor of geophysics at Caltech, to coincide with the seismologists Charles Francis Richter and Hugo Benioff. He was from 1957 to 1965, as the successor of Beno Gutenberg, director of the Seismological Laboratory. From 1965 he was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he headed from 1982 to the Department of Earth and Planetary Science. As a reason for the change press stated that he wanted to go into more oceanography. He is a life member of the MIT Corporation. He was the director (principal ) of the Washington Advisory Group.
1981 to 1994 he was president of the National Academy of Sciences and Chairman of the National Research Council. 1961 to 1964 he was scientific advisory body ( Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee) of the U.S. president, advised the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and he was involved in the negotiations on the limitation of nuclear weapons testing in Geneva and Moscow. In 1962 he was president of the Seismological Society of America, and from 1974 to 1976 the American Geophysical Union. He also advised NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy. 1977 to 1981 he was again a scientific adviser to the president ( Jimmy Carter ) and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Press dealt with seismology ( among other mechanisms of earthquakes, elastic wave propagation ), the internal structure of planets and the moon, the earth's crust and mantle structure, regional and submarine geophysics. At Columbia University, he developed the Press- Ewing seismograph at Caltech and the first digital seismographs were introduced under his leadership. Press was a pioneer in the observation of seismic waves of large wavelength and he was involved in the discovery of the free oscillations of the Earth as a whole ( in the higher modes from the analysis of the Kamchatka earthquake of 1952 and later from the analysis of the Chile earthquake 1960) At the same time succeeded this also several other groups ( at UCLA in the group of J. Freeman Gilbert and somewhat later in the group of Maurice Ewing at Columbia ). He was involved in the installation of a worldwide network of seismographs to monitor the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Agreement of 1963 substantially involved ( with Dave Griggs from UCLA ).
He is with the geologist Raymond Siever author of a popular textbook on geology.
- Arthur L. Day Medal, Geological Society of America
- William Bowie Medal, American Geophysical Union
- Ewing Medal
- 1972 Gold Medal, Royal Astronomical Society
- 1993 Japan Prize
- 1994 National Medal of Science
- 1997 Lomonosov Gold Medal
- 2007 Pick and Gavel Award, Association of American State Geologists.
- Pupin Medal of Columbia University
- Vannevar Bush Award
- Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Knight of the Legion of Honor
He is much honorary doctorates.
Press is a foreign member of the Royal Society (1985 ), member of the Académie des Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
- Raymond Siever, Thomas Jordan, John Grotzinger: General Geology. Introduction to the System Earth (Original Title: Understanding Earth, translated by Volker Swiss ), 5th Edition. Spectrum, Heidelberg / Berlin, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8274-1812-8.
- Raymond Siever Earth, Freeman, San Francisco, 4th edition, 1986 ( first 1974)
- Earthquake Prediction, Scientific American, May 1975