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Riderwood Resident David Atlas, Ph.D., Receives National Academy of Engneering's 2011 Founders Award

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, October 14, 2011) - The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) today named Riderwood retirement community resident David Atlas, Ph.D.,  the 2011 recipient of its Founders Award, which is presented to an individual's extraordinary impact through work in the engineering profession. Dr. Atlas, who is called the "Father of Radar Meteorology," is being honored by NAE for his developments in radar technology for storm detection and warning. Dr. Atlas, a member of the NAE, will receive the Founders Award on Sunday, October 16, at the NAE's Annual Meeting  in Washington, D.C.
The NAE Founders Award recognizes Dr. Atlas' "five decades of research, innovation and development, leading to operational weather radar systems that have improved aviation safety and weather-related safety for millions worldwide."  The award recognizes outstanding professional, educational, and personal achievements to the benefit of society, and it includes $2,500 and a gold medallion.
Dr. Atlas is a pioneer in the use of Doppler radar in a wide array of meteorological problems. These include the measurements of winds in ordinary storms as well as hurricanes and tornadoes. His research and that of his collaborators played a major role in the adoption of the national network of NEXRAD Doppler radars used by the National Weather Service. These radars and copies of them throughout the world have provided remarkable insights into the nature of storm systems, thus leading to advanced methodologies for prediction and warning.
Dr. Atlas' professional career began in 1945 as a radar weather officer in the All Weather Flying Division in Ohio where he invented the method for measuring the intensity of storms. That technique was quickly adopted by the aviation industry so that virtually every commercial aircraft is equipped with airborne radar. He then spent 18 years at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory, after which he became a professor and lab director at the University of Chicago. In 1972 he joined the National Center for Atmospheric Research and served as director of both the Atmospheric Technology Division and the National Hail Research Experiment.
In 1977 Dr. Atlas became the founding director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he stimulated the development the first meteorological radar in space,  the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). TRMM, launched in 1997, continues to provide measurements of rainfall amount over the tropical oceans which are essential to a better understanding of the earth's water cycle and climate system.
In addition to being elected to the NAE, Dr. Atlas received the Rossby Medal of the American Meteorological Society - the organization for which he served as president in 1975 - the Symons Medal of the Royal Meteorological Society, the Losey Medal of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Dennis Picard Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He holds 23 patents and has published more than 200 papers, continuing to work actively in the field.