Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 11:00 AM
Transformative Technologies and International Cooperation in the Career of Harry Wexler (1911-1962)
Room 245 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Harry Wexler (1911-1962) was one of the most influential meteorologists of the twentieth century. He was a graduate of Harvard and MIT as well as a student and life-long colleague of C-G. Rossby. Wexler was a proponent of air mass and frontal analysis, a leader in World War II meteorological education for the Army Air Force, and, in 1944, became the first scientist to fly into a hurricane. During his long tenure as Chief of the Scientific Services Division of the U.S. Weather Bureau he oversaw the introduction of a large number of transformative technologies, including weather radar, atmospheric nuclear tracers, scientific sounding rockets, numerical weather prediction, general circulation modeling, and satellite meteorology. Wexler worked with the Princeton mathematician John von Neumann to establish the Institute for Advanced Study meteorology program in digital computing and was instrumental in recruiting talent for them. He was in charge of the meteorological aspects of the TIROS satellite program and helped Verner Suomi fly his first heat budget experiment on Explorer 7.
Wexler was in charge of a massive interdisciplinary research program as head of US Antarctic programs for the International Geophysical Year. He conducted experiments and coordinated measurements on the Antarctic ice sheet, established the weather bureau's Mauna Loa Observatory, and supported Dave Keeling's measurements of CO2 levels there. Later, he advised president John F. Kennedy on the peaceful use of weather satellites and helped plan the World Weather Watch. Wexler was clearly on top of his science, a leader in new techniques and technologies, and a respected international figure. His life was cut short by a heart attack in 1962 at the age of 51.
This lecture, on Wexler's life, work, and legacy, commemorates the centennial of his birth and the 50th anniversary of his death. It serves as a reminder to our community of the need to recognize international cooperation and engagement with new transformative technologies as exemplified by the career of Harry Wexler.