March 7, 1909- July 15, 1991
Once described by the New York Times as one of the world's most articulate spokesmen for science, Roger Revelle was a giant in American science who accomplished enough during his eighty-two years to distinguish several lifetimes.
Revelle first made his mark in oceanography - as a scientist, explorer, and administrator - and went on to become a senior senator of science, giving counsel and guidance in areas ranging from the environment and education to agriculture and world population. He was one of the first scientists to recognize the dangerous global warming effects of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Born in Seattle, Washington, on March 7, 1909, Revelle was raised in Pasadena, California, and began his long association with the University of California as a graduate student at UC Berkeley. In 1931, he became a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the same year he married his wife, Ellen, who was a native of La Jolla, California.
By 1936, Scripps had made Revelle into an oceanographer. Then, as a faculty member, and later, as director of the institution, Revelle made oceanography into big science. He led Scripps into a new age of exploration, during which a series of major expeditions revolutionized knowledge of the sea floor, and he initiated many cooperative international scientific programs. He kept the institution in the forefront of marine science and recruited faculty from around the world to share his dream of a UC campus in San Diego. That dream is now a reality, an embodiment of Revelle's philosophy of how great universities are created and sustained: recruit the finest scholars and students; use the world as your laboratory; and, above all, do what is important. Through his extraordinary vision and leadership, Revelle was the main force in founding the University of California, San Diego in 1960, and the first of its colleges was named in his honor.
Revelle left UCSD in 1964 and founded the Center for Population Studies at Harvard University, where he spent more than a decade as its director. His primary interests were applications of science and technology to world hunger. In the late 1970s, he returned to UCSD as professor of science and public policy. Throughout his career, Revelle served on scores of academic, scientific, and government committees advising on a wide spectrum of topics. He was science adviser to the secretary of the interior and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In November 1990, Roger Revelle received the National Medal of Science from President George Bush.
"Roger Revelle led the way in turning oceanography into a major field of science in America. He raised our consciousness on the issues of global warming and over- population. He enriched all with whom he came in contact through his creative mind and caring ways."
Edward A. Frieman
Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography