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History Makers: Honorable Mentions

Daniel Albritton

Dr. Daniel Albritton spent nearly 40 years as a scientist and administrator working to understand the chemical processes of the atmosphere and their implications for the health of living creatures and their effect on the global climate system.  As head of NOAA’s Aeronomy Laboratory (now part of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory) from 1986 until his retirement in 2006, he was a leader in organizing research on stratospheric ozone destruction and helped develop international protocols for control of ozone-destroying chemicals. He has played a key role in understanding the causes of pollution in the lower atmosphere including understanding of the chemistry of acid rain. Dr. Albritton has also been a major spokesman in explaining the science of climate change to the public and government policy makers. His career has been a prime example of science and scientists serving national and international needs and using science for the benefit of mankind. 

Spencer Fullerton Baird

Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887) was a naturalist whose early reputation was based on a vast knowledge of ornithology coupled with editorial talent and facility in several languages.  These capabilities led to his selection as the first assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1850 and, after the death of Joseph Henry in 1878, the Secretary.  Baird, while retaining his Smithsonian position, was appointed the first Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries (a forerunner of the National Marine Fisheries Service) in 1871.  He encouraged the rapid development of fish culture in the United States, founded the Woods Hole fisheries laboratory, and commenced building and acquiring fisheries research vessels, notably the Albatross and the Fish Hawk.  Although Baird had great interest in the operations of the Fish Commission, much of the day-to-day operations and development of the science was passed to other men, notably George Brown Goode, as fisheries was but one aspect of Baird’s multi-faceted career.

William Ferrel

William Ferrel (1817-1891) was a self-taught genius who was a pioneer in the field of geophysical fluid dynamics and the mathematical treatment and modeling of fluids, including both air and water, moving over the surface of the Earth.  While working for the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ferrel designed and built the second tide prediction machine which was used for over thirty years, wrote numerous theoretical treatises on tides and tidal currents, and published a series of essays in Coast and Geodetic Survey annual reports on such topics as “Meteorological Researches - Cyclones, Tornadoes, and Water-Spouts”.  Ferrel finished his career as a research scientist with the Weather Bureau and passed away in 1891 having forged a path that ultimately lead to modern dynamic oceanography and numerical weather prediction.

Nancy Foster

Dr. Nancy Foster (1941-2000) began her career in NOAA in 1977 and because of her vision quickly rose to Director of the Sanctuary and Reserves Program where she laid much of the groundwork for today’s great network of national marine sanctuaries and national estuarine research reserves.  In the mid 1980s, she moved on to become chief of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Office of Protected Resources where she formed the Habitat Restoration Center, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, and various marine mammal programs. She served as Acting Assistant Administrator of Fisheries from January to October 1993, then Deputy Assistant Administrator of Fisheries from 1993 to 1997, and was then appointed Assistant Administrator of the National Ocean Service until her untimely death in 2000.  Through her vision, passion for the environment, and administrative skills, Dr. Foster helped lead NOAA into the modern era of coastal resource management and conservation and protection of the marine environment.  

Helmut Landsberg

Dr. Helmut Landsberg (1906-1985) was a leader and pioneer in many aspects of the science of climatology.  Although born in Germany, he came to the United States in 1934 and began an affiliation with American academia that saw him begin the meteorological program at Pennsylvania State University, go on to the University of Chicago where he produced numerous climatological studies for Allied forces during World War II, and then later in his career at the University of Maryland.  He began his association with the U.S. government in 1951 when appointed to head the U.S. Air Force Geophysical Directorate at Cambridge, Massachusetts.  In 1954, he was appointed to head the United States Weather Bureau Office of Climatology, which he reorganized into the National Weather Records Center (now the National Climatic Data Center) and introduced new weather data processing methods and electronic computing.  He returned to academia at the University of Maryland in 1966 and made many additional notable contributions prior to his death in 1985.   

Lester Machta

Dr. Lester Machta (1919-2001) was a leader in studying atmospheric chemistry throughout his career in NOAA and its predecessor organization, which extended from his appointment as head of the Special Projects Section in 1948 till his passing in 2001 as a scientist emeritus with NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory.  He was a pioneer in studying radiation from nuclear fallout and stratospheric ozone; he was also instrumental in establishing NOAA’s global carbon dioxide monitoring program in the 1970s when he established and headed the Geophysical Monitoring for Climatic Change Program which assured the continuation of the Mauna Loa Observatory as well as establishing a worldwide network of atmospheric observatories and sampling stations.

Syukuro Manabe

Dr. Syukuro Manabe (1931- ) spent the first 39 years of his professional career, from 1958 to 1997, affiliated with NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and its predecessors.  Under the direction of  Dr. Joseph Smagorinsky, by 1963 he was the first to develop a hemispheric model of atmospheric circulation.  He followed this up with collaborator Dr. Kirk Bryan with the first ocean-atmosphere coupled model in 1969 and in 1992 received the Blue Planet award followed in 1997 by the Volvo Foundation Environmental Prize for being the first to “explore the effects on climate of an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion.”

Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), son of Benjamin Peirce, the great Harvard mathematician and third superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey, is considered to be among the greatest and most original of American thinkers.  He served in the U. S. Coast Survey from 1859-1891 where he was the pioneer in gravity observations and made many contributions to mathematical methods and error analysis.  He was also founder of the philosophical school of thought known as “pragmatism.” Among his many other contributions were first design of an electric switching computer, first recognition of the spiral form of the Milky Way Galaxy, and first to use the wavelength of light to establish an invariable standard of length.

Charles Schott

Charles Anthony Schott (1826-1901) was a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1848 and immediately went to work for the United States Coast Survey and remained active up until the day of his death.  He rose to be the chief geodesist and chief mathematician of the Survey, guided the evolution of the Survey through its transition from purely coastal to a continent-wide geodetic survey, and developed numerous mathematical methods for determining most probable values for geodetic observations, predicting changes in secular variation of the geomagnetic field, and even was the United States’ pioneer in the statistical analysis of climatological data.

Oscar Elton Sette

Dr. Oscar Elton Sette (1900-1972) is considered the father of modern fisheries oceanography in the United States and is internationally recognized for his many significant contributions to fisheries research over a long career.  These included directing the Woods Hole Fisheries Laboratory beginning in 1929, the establishment of the world-renowned CalCofi program with Harald Sverdrup of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1949, and the founding of the NOAA Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu in 1950.  His pioneering work demonstrated the importance of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, including the interrelationships between fisheries, oceanography, and meteorology for understanding and solving marine fisheries problems.  Sette formulated the concept that the “changing ocean" plays a key role in the natural fluctuations of fish stocks and their vulnerability to harvesting. He published noteworthy scientific papers describing the connections between food webs, ocean currents and trade winds to explain the distribution and abundance of tuna in the equatorial Pacific. Additionally, Sette helped formulate early policies and guidance for fisheries research and management in the United States. 

Harris B. Stewart

Dr. Harris B. Stewart (1922-2000) was a marine geologist, pioneer SCUBA diver for science, first chief oceanographer of the Coast and Geodetic Survey (C&GS), founder and first director of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), author, poet, mentor and friend of many scientists in NOAA throughout his career. “Stew”, as he was known to his friends, led the C&GS and then NOAA into the realm of global ocean science, and through sheer tenacity and belief in a vision brought AOML into existence. Always one to love a joke, when he became chief oceanographer of the C&GS in 1957, it was said of him that he was so intent "on carrying out his underwater ideas in the Survey that someone was heard to crack: 'TOP MAN TO GET BOTTOM JOB AT COAST SURVEY.'” His vision, passion for understanding the science of the sea, and ability to see and share the humor of life at sea inspired many young scientists and helped build the foundation of NOAA’s oceanography of today.

Livingston Stone

Livingston Stone (1836-1912) was a pioneer fish culturist, Deputy Commissioner of Fisheries for the Pacific coast from 1872 to 1898, and senior fish culturist of the U.S. Fish Commission from 1898 to 1903.  He was an ordained Unitarian minister, although he resigned from his clerical duties in 1866, which may have influenced his passionate dedication to salmon conservation in his later career. Stone began his career in fish culture in 1866 as a private citizen. He joined the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in 1872 and was assigned to establish Chinook salmon hatcheries in California. He built the first federal fish hatchery on the McCloud River, an endeavor that ultimately led to the establishment of over 100 hatcheries during his tenure. Stone was one of the first to see the decimation of the Pacific salmon stocks and, in 1889, advocated the establishment of a "national salmon park" for Alaska. On the basis of his recommendation, Congress set aside part of Alaska's Afognak Island as a "forest and fish cultural reserve" in 1892. Although the United States government rescinded the protected status of Afognak Island in the 1930s, Stone’s efforts stand as a precursor to the modern movement to establish marine protected areas. The Fish Commission publication Culture of Fish in 1898 represents the capstone of Stone’s work and continues to be a standard reference document.

Fred Utter

Dr. Fred Utter (1931- ) is known as the founding father of the field of fishery genetics.  He joined the ancestor laboratory of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center fishery genetics laboratory in 1959, became head of the laboratory in 1969 and led the genetics group until his retirement from NOAA in 1988.  Since then, he has remained active in the field of fisheries genetics as an adjunct professor at the University of Washington, as an editor of the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, and many other related activities.  He was a pioneer in the development of genetic methods for the study of natural populations and a visionary in his early advocacy of the critical importance of genetic information for managing fish populations.  When Dr. Utter began his career, these issues received little attention; today it is axiomatic that wise stewardship of living marine resources requires reliable information about stock structure and the various levels of biodiversity.  This transformation in thinking about marine conservation can be attributed in no small part to the profound and long-lasting influence Dr. Utter has had on the field. 

Usha Varanasi

Dr. Usha Varanasi is the science and research director of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington, a position she has held since 1994, when she became the first woman to lead one of NOAA’s nine major fisheries field installations.  She has significantly advanced the field of ecotoxicology, successfully applied her research to pressing environmental challenges, created a high-performing organization that is a respected source of applied scientific information, and consistently led by example, through strategic, innovative, and exceptional service.  She began her career in the Office of Naval Research but joined NOAA in 1975 as a research chemist investigating the effects of contaminants on marine organisms.  Her research was groundbreaking: she discovered how marine organisms accumulate and process hydrocarbons, the toxic components of petroleum products. This led to the development of techniques that reduce the impacts of pollution on fisheries resources and ensure that seafood is safe for human consumption.  Her research transformed NOAA’s capabilities in these areas, making it a national and international leader in ecotoxicology.

David Wark

Dr. David Q. Wark (1918-2002) was a pioneer in satellite meteorology, served 55 years with the federal government, most of it with the United States Weather Bureau, and then, as a founder and long-time scientist with the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.  He designed satellite instruments including the satellite infra-red spectromoter used on the NIMBUS 5 satellite and had a wide range of scientific interests.

Harry Wexler 

Dr. Harry Wexler (1911–1962) was the Director of Meteorological Research of the United States Weather Bureau in the years following the Second World War.  Many innovative and long-lasting weather and climate research programs were begun during his tenure including carbon dioxide observations at Mauna Loa, atmospheric ozone and radiation studies, the hurricane research program, and a whole host of other major initiatives.