Made possible by a generous gift, a new, permanent exhibit will be unveiled in December, honoring the life and achievements of Pauline M. Austin, PhD ‘42, who served as Director of MIT’s Weather Radar Lab for over 25 years.
Did you ever wonder why there is that radome on the roof of the Green Building? And what exactly is inside? You’ll be able to find out, thanks to a new exhibit about the Weather Radar Research Project soon to be unveiled at the Pauline M. Austin Day event, December 1st.
An MIT alum who worked for years with Dr. Pauline (Polly) Austin PhD ’42 in the Weather Radar Research Project, the first occupant of the 18th floor of the Green Building, has decided to make a generous gift to EAPS in honor of Dr. Austin’s contributions to the field of meteorology and weather radar, and to provide the latest equipment to MIT students who are studying meteorology. The donor has chosen to remain anonymous.
This gift will enable EAPS to acquire much-needed new tools for the Synoptic Meteorology Lab, including a weather camera for the roof, new weather stations, and a large screen to display meteorological data and forecasts. In addition, funds have been set aside to install a museum-style exhibit on the 16th floor of the Green Building to honor Dr. Austin and highlight MIT’s seminal role in the development of weather radar.
“Modern meteorology owes a lot to Polly Austin and the MIT’s Weather Radar Lab”, says Lodovica Illari, Senior Lecturer in Meteorology in EAPS, “Polly was responsible for installing the radome that is still on the roof of the Green Building. She worked for years on studying rain bands and obtained the first quantitative estimates of precipitation using radar signals – today we take it for granted that we have radar to track storms and precipitation. Polly’s work made it possible.”
Pauline Morrow Austin, one of MIT’s earliest women PhD graduates in Physics, joined the Weather Radar Lab in 1946 and was its Director from 1956-1980. During World War II, she was recruited for classified research in MIT’s Radiation Lab, and was named by the New York Times as one of the top female scientists contributing to the war effort.
Despite this attention to her work, during her long career Dr. Austin never sought personal recognition. As one of a handful of women in her field, and the spouse of eminent MIT Professor James M. Austin (well-known in Boston as the first meteorologist to make a nightly broadcast on WBZ-TV), she worked “under the radar,” dedicating herself to her work and her family. Illari notes, “In those days, Polly was quite a pioneer. She got her PhD at MIT, and managed to combine family with her scientific career, raising her two daughters at the same time as working around the clock on her research, often coming in during the night to track storms and collect data.” She continued to come in to the office every week to work on her rain band data long after her official retirement as Director of the Weather Radar Lab.
In December—the month that marks the centenary of Dr. Austin’s birth—EAPS will host Pauline M. Austin Day in the Green Building on December 1st, when the exhibit will be opened. Dr. Austin’s daughters Doris A. Price and Carol T. West, who have also kindly supported this project, will join us for a symposium with former colleagues and students, remembering her achievements and where they led. Current EAPS graduate students will also host a poster session to showcase their research projects.
To learn more about the Austin event, please contact: Angela Ellis, EAPS Senior Development Officer | 617-253-5796 | firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For further information on giving opportunities or creating a named fund to benefit the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, please contact:
Senior Development Officer
Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT
617 253 5796
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