Emanuel Elected to the American Philosophical Society

EAPS News
Thursday, May 16, 2019

The oldest learned society in the United States works to promote useful knowledge.

The following news article is adapted from a press release issued by the American Philosophical Society.

Kerry Emanuel, EAPS Cecil & Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science and co-director of the Lorenz Center, joins the ranks of the oldest scholarly society in the nation. Election to the American Philosophical Society (APS) honors extraordinary accomplishments in all fields. The APS is unusual among learned societies because its membership is comprised of top scholars from a wide variety of academic disciplines. Also inducted this year were fellow MIT community members (MIT faculty and alumni):

  • Clifford J. Tabin, George Jacob and Jacqueline Hazel Leder Professor of Genetics, Chair, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Adjunct Professor of Health Sciences & Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Judith Jarvis Thomson, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • David Tirrell, S.B., 1974, Provost, Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair, Ross McCollum - William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology
  • Erin O’Shea, Ph.D., 1992, Investigator, President, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University

Kerry Emanuel is a prominent meteorologist and climate scientist who specializes in moist convection in the atmosphere, and tropical cyclones. His research interests focus on tropical meteorology and climate, with a specialty in hurricane physics. His interests also include cumulus convection, the role of clouds, water vapor, and upper-ocean mixing in regulation of climate, and advanced methods of sampling the atmosphere in aid of numerical weather prediction.

Emanuel received an S.B. degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences and a Ph.D. in Meteorology (1978) both from MIT. After completing his doctorate, he joined the faculty of the Atmospheric Sciences department of the University of California at Los Angeles where he remained for three years, with a brief hiatus filming tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas.

In 1981 he joined the faculty of the Department of Meteorology at MIT and was promoted to Full Professor in 1987 in what had since becomes the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). In 1989 he assumed directorship of EAPS Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, a post he held until 1997. Subsequently he chaired the EAPS Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate from 2009 to 2012. He is co-founder of the MIT Lorenz Center, a climate think tank which fosters creative approaches to learning how climate works.

Professor Emanuel is the author or co-author of over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and three books, including Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes, published by Oxford University Press, and What We Know about Climate Change, published by the MIT Press.


The American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.”  The Society sustains its mission in four principal ways. It honors and engages distinguished scientists, humanists, social scientists, and leaders in civic and cultural affairs through elected membership and opportunities for interdisciplinary, intellectual fellowship, particularly in the semi-annual Meetings in Philadelphia.  It supports research and discovery through grants and fellowships, lectures, publications, prizes, exhibitions, and public education.  It serves scholars through a research library of some 13 million manuscripts and other collections internationally recognized for their enduring scholarly value. The American Philosophical Society’s current activities reflect the founder’s spirit of inquiry, provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and convey the conviction of its members that intellectual inquiry and critical thought are inherently in the public interest.

Early members included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Marshall.  In the nineteenth century, John James Audubon, Robert Fulton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, and Louis Pasteur were among those elected.  Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, and George Marshall hint at the scientific, humanistic, and public accomplishments of twentieth-century members.  The first woman was elected in 1789 - the Russian Princess Dashkova, president of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg. 

Today the Society has 1,013 elected members, 845 resident members and 168 international members from more than two dozen foreign countries. Only 5,676 members have been elected since 1743. Since 1900, more than 260 members have received the Nobel Prize.