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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Departmental History

The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UW–Madison has a rich history dating back to early days of the University itself. Gisela Kutzbach has done extensive research and wrote a 1979 BAMS article highlighting some of the milestones of 125 years of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin. Some specific highlights taken from the introduction of that article:

  • The first professor on campus, J. W. Sterling, began taking meteorological observations in 1853. A small but continuing program of meteorology was present on the campus for almost 100 years (1853-1947)

  • The modern Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (then called Meteorology) was founded in 1948 by Reid Bryson and Verner Suomi.

75th Anniversary

The department held its 75th-anniversary celebration on October 6, 2023. The AOS community, including alumni, students, faculty, staff, colleagues, and supporters, came together to reflect on the department’s rich history and toast to its bright future. Dr. Louis Uccellini, AOS alumnus (BS 1971, MS 1972, PhD 1977), spoke about the department’s history, which you can watch here.

Department Chairs

1948-1950: Reid A. Bryson

1950-1952: Verner E. Suomi

1952-1954: Reid A. Bryson

1954-1957: Verner E. Suomi

1957-1961: Reid A. Bryson

1961-1963: Heinz H. Lettau

1963-1967: Robert A. Ragotzkie

1967-1970: Lyle H. Horn

1970-1973: Eberhard W. Wahl

1973-1976: Donald R. Johnson

1976-1979: David D. Houghton

1979-1982: John E. Kutzbach

1982-1984: Eberhard W. Wahl

1984-1987: John A. Young

1987-1989: Lyle H. Horn

1989-1991: John E. Kutzbach

1991-1994: David D. Houghton

1994-1997: Pao K. Wang

1997-2000: Matthew H. Hitchman

2000-2005: John A. Young

2005-2013: Jon E. Martin

2013-2016: Grant Petty

2016-2021: Greg Tripoli

2021-present: Ankur Desai