Photo of Verner E. Suomi

Verner E. Suomi

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For providing a new view of the dynamics of our atmosphere, which already has brought substantial benefits to the people of this nation and the world.

Verner E. Suomi was a meteorological heavyweight who developed a weather forecasting imaging system that gave meteorologists a new level of information to plan for agricultural irrigation and even guide space travel. The imaging technology process paved the way for the weather satellites used today.

One of Suomi’s most notable inventions was the 1964 spin-scan camera, which would be mounted on a satellite and send images to researchers on the ground 25,000 miles away. The spin-scan camera not only advanced weather forecasting but also shed light on the earth’s atmosphere.

Suomi was also well known for a 30-year feud with another meteorologist, Reid A. Bryson. Both researchers worked at the University of Wisconsin and previously studied together at the University of Chicago. Although they were once close friends, their different approaches to scientific research — Suomi was data driven, Bryston was focused on theory — caused a storied rift between the two meteorologists.

By Christine Ayala