Solomon is director of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the largest research division within the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also principal investigator of NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, the most comprehensive investigation yet of the planet closest to the sun. Solomon came to Lamont in 2012 after serving for nearly two decades as director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C. Among other roles, he served as principal investigator for Carnegie’s part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which seeks to understand the origin of life on Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere. He completed his Ph.D. in geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971, where he stayed on to teach and conduct research for two decades. He is a 1966 graduate of the California Institute of Technology.
Solomon received the National Medal of Science in 2014 and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received numerous other awards, among them the Geological Society of America’s G. K. Gilbert Award and the American Geophysical Union’s Harry H. Hess Medal. When he stepped down as a director at Carnegie in 2011, his colleagues arranged to have a previously discovered asteroid named after him. Asteroid 25137 Seansolomon, about a mile and half wide, is currently orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter.