Ralph J. Cicerone

National Academy of Sciences

May 2, 1943


Election Year: 1990
Scientific Discipline: Geophysics
Membership Type: Member

Ralph J. Cicerone is the President of the National Academy of Sciences and Chair of the National Research Council. His research in atmospheric chemistry, climate change and energy has involved him in shaping science and environmental policy at the highest levels nationally and internationally.

Dr. Cicerone has received a number of honorary degrees and many awards for his scientific work. Among the latter, the Franklin Institute recognized his fundamental contributions to the understanding of greenhouse gases and ozone depletion by selecting Dr. Cicerone as the 1999 laureate for the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science. One of the most prestigious American awards in science, the Bower Award also recognized his public policy leadership in protecting the global environment. In 2001, he led a National Academy of Sciences study of the current state of climate change and its impact on the environment and human health, requested by President Bush. The American Geophysical Union awarded Dr. Cicerone its James B. Macelwane Award in 1979 for outstanding contributions to geophysics by a young scientist and its 2002 Roger Revelle Medal for outstanding research contributions to the understanding of Earth’s atmospheric processes, biogeochemical cycles, and other key elements of the climate system. In 2004, the World Cultural Council honored him with the Albert Einstein World Award in Science. In addition to the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Cicerone is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Korean Academy of Science and Technology. He has served as president of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest society of earth scientists.

Dr. Cicerone was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BS in electrical engineering) and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (MS, PhD in electrical engineering, with a minor in physics). In his early career, he was a research scientist and held faculty positions in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan. The Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professorship of Atmospheric Science was established there in his honor in 2007. In 1978 he joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego as a research chemist. From 1980 to 1989, he was a senior scientist and director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. In 1989 he joined the University of California, Irvine, where he was founding chair of the Department of Earth System Science and was appointed the Daniel G. Aldrich Professor of Earth System Science. As Dean of the School of Physical Sciences from 1994 to 1998, he recruited outstanding faculty and strengthened the school’s curriculum and outreach programs. Immediately prior to his election as Academy president, Dr. Cicerone served as Chancellor of UC Irvine from 1998 to 2005, a period marked by a rapid rise in the academic capabilities of the campus. His research has focused on atmospheric chemistry, the radiative forcing of climate change due to trace gases, and the sources of atmospheric methane, nitrous oxide and methyl halide gases.

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