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Fellows Directory

John Houghton

John Houghton

Sir John Houghton CBE FRS


Elected: 1972


John Houghton was a physicist who led the development of satellite-based measurement of the temperature structure and composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. This has been fundamental to understanding the impact of rising concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide on global atmospheric temperatures, and resulting climate change.

In 1983, John became Director General of the UK Meteorological Office where he was responsible for setting up the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. The centre is a world leader in climate research. John also played a key role in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and continued to be closely involved in its work.

John was the author of a number of influential and highly regarded textbooks on atmospheric physics, remote sensing, and climate change. He received many awards, including the Japan Prize, the International Meteorological Organization Prize and the Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal. John was knighted in 1991.

Sir John Houghton CBE FRS died on 15 April 2020.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Earth and environmental sciences
    • Atmospheric physics and meteorology, Climate sciences


  • Bakerian Medal and Lecture

    On 'The predictability of weather and climate'.

  • Japan Prize

    In the field of global change for pioneeering research on atmospheric structure and composition based on his satellite observation technology and for promotion of international assessments of climate.

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