Roger Revelle Lecture Series

Roger Revelle

For almost half a century, Roger Revelle was a leader in the field of oceanography. Revelle trained as a geologist at Pomona College and at U.C. Berkeley. Then, in 1936, he received his Ph.D. in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. As a young naval officer, he helped persuade the Navy to create the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to support basic research in oceanography and was the first head of ONR's geophysics branch. Revelle served for 12 years as the Director of Scripps (1950-1961, 1963-1964), where he built up a fleet of research ships and initiated a decade of expeditions to the deep Pacific that challenged existing geological theory.

Revelle's early work on the carbon cycle suggested that the sea could not absorb all the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels. He facilitated the first continual measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading to a long-term record that makes present-day discussions and research on global warming possible and very valuable. Revelle kept the issue of increasing carbon dioxide levels before the public and spearheaded efforts to investigate the mechanisms and consequences of climate change.

Revelle was a proponent of daring programs, like Mohole and the International Indian Ocean Expedition. This expedition addressed fundamental scientific questions and pioneered international cooperation. In 1960, Revelle left Scripps for critical posts as Science Advisor to the Department of the Interior (1961-1963) and as the first Director of the Center for Population Studies at Harvard (1964-1976). Revelle applied his knowledge of geophysics, ocean resources, and population dynamics to the world's most vexing problems: poverty, malnutrition, security, and education.

In 1957, Revelle became a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to which he devoted many hours of volunteer service. He served as a member of the Ocean Studies Board, the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, and many committees. He also chaired a number of influential Academy studies on subjects ranging from the environmental effects of radiation to understanding sea-level change.

This lecture was created by the Ocean Studies Board in honor of Dr. Roger Revelle to highlight the important links between ocean sciences and public policy.

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Founding and Continuing Sponsors: Office of Naval Research, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, National Science Resources Center, Smithsonian Institution, National Academy of Sciences.

2011 Sponsors: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation