David Atlas
Born(1924-05-25)May 25, 1924
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 10, 2015(2015-11-10) (aged 91)
Known forRadar meteorology
AwardsNumerous, including Symons Memorial of the RMS in 1989 and Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal in 1996 from the AMS
Scientific career
InstitutionsU.S. Air Force, University of Chicago, National Center for Atmospheric Research and NASA

David Atlas (May 25, 1924 – November 10, 2015) was an American meteorologist and one of the pioneers of radar meteorology. His career extended from World War II to his death: he worked for the US Air Force, then was professor at the University of Chicago and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), researcher at NASA and private consultant. Atlas owned 22 patents, published more than 260 papers, was a member of many associations, and received numerous honors in his field.[1]

Early life

Atlas was born May 25, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, from Jewish parents who immigrated from Poland and Russia.[1][2] He studied primary and high school in Brooklyn, starting college in City College of New York afterward.[1] He served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War in the US Army Air Corps, where he worked on the development of radars, in particular on the problem of precipitation echos.

After the war, Atlas remained in the U.S. Air Force for 18 years, working at the Cambridge Research Laboratories, in Bedford, Massachusetts, as head of a research team on weather radars while working on his Master and Doctorate degrees. He particularly investigated the Doppler Effect for use in wind measurement.[1][3]


From 1966 to 1972, Atlas was professor of meteorology at the University of Chicago. From 1972 to 1976, he was the director of the atmospheric technologies division at NCAR in Boulder, Colorado. The results of his team were used for the development of the actual United States Doppler weather radars network called NEXRAD.[1][3]

In 1977, Atlas formed the Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences at the NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This center has produced numerous meteorological instruments to be used on weather satellites for study of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the cryosphere.[1][3]

Atlas officially retired in 1984, but remained active in the meteorology research community, in particular in radar meteorology. He still worked until recently at Goddard, he is a fellow of the American Geophysical Society, the Royal Meteorological Society (RMS),and the National Academy of Engineering. Atlas is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS),[4] and a previous president in 1975.[5]

He received numerous awards, including the Symons Gold Medal of the RMS in 1988 and the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal in 1996 from AMS.[3][6][7] He received in 2004, the Dennis J. Picard Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for "exceptionally outstanding leadership and significant individual technical contributions to the application of radar for the observation of weather and other atmospheric phenomena".[8]


Atlas died on November 10, 2015, from complications following a stroke in Silver Spring, Maryland, at the age of 91.[9][10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Don Rittner (January 2009). A to Z of Scientists in Weather and Climate. Infobase Publishing. pp. 14–15. ISBN 9781438109244. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  2. ^ "Atlas, David". jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "David Atlas". Biography. National Academy of Engineering. 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  4. ^ "List of AMS Fellows". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  5. ^ "Past Presidents of the AMS". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  6. ^ "Historical List of Awards" (PDF). Royal Meteorological Society. Retrieved November 11, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Award for Extraordinary Scientific Achievement 1951-1999 (Médaille Carl-Gustaf Rossby)". American Meteorological Society. 28 December 1999. Retrieved November 11, 2015(Write 1996 in the year box)((cite web)): CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  8. ^ "IEEE Dennis J. Picard Medal for Radar Technologies and Applications" (PDF). IEEE. 2004. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-09-29. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  9. ^ Dennis Mersereau (November 10, 2015). "David Atlas". thevane.gawker.com. Archived from the original on November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  10. ^ "David Atlas". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2015.