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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.

Over the years, alumni and friends have collected a wide variety of stories and pictures detailing the history of the department. As we are able to collect these pictures and stories, we intend to save them for posterity and share them here. If you have content that you would like to add, please let us know (email and please check back, as content will be regularly added and updated.