Warren Washington receives National Medal of Science

Oct 15, 2010 - by Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Obama today named Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), as one of 10 eminent researchers to be awarded the National Medal of Science. The recipients of the science medal and of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation will receive their awards—the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists, engineers, and inventors—at a White House ceremony later this year. Update: The ceremony took place on November 17, 2010; a webcast of the event may be viewed here.

Warren Washington receiving medal from Pres. Obama
Warren Washington receives the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony on November 17, 2010. (Added 11/17/10. Courtesy the White House.)

“The extraordinary accomplishments of these scientists, engineers, and inventors are a testament to American industry and ingenuity,” President Obama said. “Their achievements have redrawn the frontiers of human knowledge while enhancing American prosperity, and it is my tremendous pleasure to honor them for their important contributions.”

“We are delighted that Warren’s many years of dedicated research in climate science are being recognized with this extraordinary honor,” said Roger Wakimoto, NCAR director. “His scientific leadership, innate diplomacy, as well as the mentorship to future generations of scientists have deeply and profoundly impacted our field.”

Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR, added: “It is a well-deserved honor for Warren as well as the atmospheric sciences, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the UCAR and NCAR community.  Warren is a wonderful scientist who has been at the forefront of climate modeling for 40 years.  Even more importantly, he is a kind and generous person.”

Washington is an internationally recognized expert on atmospheric science and climate research and a pioneer in using computer models, which employ fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, to study Earth’s climate. He has served as a science advisor to former presidents Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, published almost 200 papers in professional journals, and garnered dozens of national and international awards. He also served on the National Science Board for 12 years and was its chair for 2002 to 2006.

View of all recipients as Washington receives medal
Honorees receiving National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation look on as Warren Washington shakes hands with President Obama. (Added 11/17/10. Courtesy the White House.)

Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with his colleague, Akira Kasahara, when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. With support from NSF and the Department of Energy, Washington subsequently worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models were used extensively in the 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which Washington and a number of scientists at NCAR and around the world shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

“I am very pleased to receive this honor, which recognizes not only my work but that of my many colleagues whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for more than 45 years,” Washington said. “Akira Kasahara and Jerry Meehl, at NCAR, contributed significantly to the development of computer climate models, and support from NSF and the Department of Energy enabled us to make research advancements that I hope will contribute to mankind’s ability to sustain this planet.”

Warren Washington
Warren Washington. (©UCAR, photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media use. Please credit the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. For more information on how individuals and organizations may use UCAR images, see Media & nonprofit use.*)

As the second African-American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, Washington has served as a role model for generations of young researchers from many backgrounds, mentoring numerous undergraduate and graduate students. In 1999, Washington won the Dr. Charles Anderson Award from the American Meteorological Society “for pioneering efforts as a mentor and passionate support of individuals, educational programs, and outreach initiatives designed to foster a diverse population of atmospheric scientists.”

Warren Washington
Warren Washington with Kimberly Trent, now a doctoral student at the University of Michigan.  Trent is one of the many students Washington has mentored through the Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) program. (©UCAR, photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media use. Please credit the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. For more information on how individuals and organizations may use UCAR images, see Media & nonprofit use.*)

Washington was born and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He became interested in science in grade school, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degree in meteorology from Oregon State University, and then a doctorate in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. In 1963, he joined NCAR as a research scientist.

National Medal of Science

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/
social, and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing, and mathematics.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Yakir Aharonov, Chapman University, CA
  • Stephen J. Benkovic, Pennsylvania State University, PA
  • Esther M. Conwell, University of Rochester, NY
  • Marye Anne Fox, University of California, San Diego, CA
  • Susan L. Lindquist, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
  • Mortimer Mishkin, National Institutes of Health, MD
  • David B. Mumford, Brown University, RI
  • Stanley B. Prusiner, University of California, San Francisco, CA
  • Warren M. Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research, CO
  • Amnon Yariv, California Institute of Technology, CA

Related Links

Honoring Science, Technology, and Innovation (White House webcast)

Tuesday Talk on the National Medals of Science, Technology and Innovation (White House webcast)

White House announcement of National Medals of Science

NCAR Library Special Collection: Warren M. Washington

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