It is now almost 3 years since we lost our dear brother, John Houghton. We have just learned of a tribute by his and our good friend Bob White that was published in The Royal Society several months ago.
The picture above is from the article – I daresay none of us have seen him this young. Following is a brief excerpt:
John Houghton made seminal contributions to understanding the temperature and structure of the stratosphere. After gaining the highest first in physics at Oxford, his DPhil involved building a radiometer that was flown in a post-war Mosquito. It started a long interest in developing instrumentation. He completed his National Service doing research into atmospheric composition at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, then returned to 21 years in Oxford. He led a team that, with others, built a series of instruments launched on Nimbus satellites during 1970 to 1978 to measure infrared radiation from the stratosphere. At age 48 he left academia to head up the Appleton Research Laboratories, tasked to move them to the Rutherford Laboratory and realign their work from upper atmospheric radio research to space support. Four years later he was appointed director general of the Meteorological Office. In his eight-year term, he moved it from dependence on the Ministry of Defence to becoming an independent agency, developed its commercial arm and strengthened its research. He also founded the Hadley Centre to work on climate-related issues. His most significant global contribution was helping to set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), then chairing its working group on scientific assessments through their first three reports during 1990 to 2001. After retirement he devoted his time to raising awareness of climate change through many lectures and articles, and co-founded the John Ray Initiative to address the challenges of sustainable development and environmental stewardship. Appropriately, the Sixth IPCC WG1 Assessment Report in August 2021 was dedicated posthumously to him.
…In 2007 the IPCC was announced as the joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Al Gore Jr. The citation stated it was ‘for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change’. John, along with a group of others from the IPCC, were delighted to attend the ceremony. It remained one of the highlights of his career, along with receiving the Japan Prize in the previous year. In August 2021, the sixth assessment report was released with a posthumous dedication to Sir John Houghton, a mark of the respect in which the scientific community held him.