About Roger Revelle

For almost half a century, Roger Revelle was a leader in the field of oceanography. Revelle trained as a geologist at Pomona College and at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of California, Berkeley in 1936. As a young naval officer, he helped persuade the Navy to create the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to support basic research in oceanography and was the first head of ONR’s geophysics branch. Revelle served for 12 years as the Director of Scripps (1950-1961, 1963-1964), where he built up a fleet of research ships and initiated a decade of expeditions to the deep Pacific that challenged existing geological theory. Revelle’s early work on the carbon cycle suggested that the sea could not absorb all the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels. He facilitated the first continual measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading to a long-term record that makes present-day discussions and research on global warming possible and very valuable. Revelle kept the issue of increasing carbon dioxide levels before the public and spearheaded efforts to investigate the mechanisms and consequences of climate change. Revelle was a proponent of daring programs, like Mohole and the International Indian Ocean Expedition. This expedition addressed fundamental scientific questions and pioneered international cooperation. In 1960, Revelle left Scripps for critical posts as Science Advisor to the Department of the Interior (1961-1963) and as the first Director of the Center for Population Studies at Harvard (1964-1976). Revelle applied his knowledge of geophysics, ocean resources, and population dynamics to the world’s most vexing problems: poverty, malnutrition, security, and education. In 1957, Revelle became a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to which he devoted many hours of volunteer service. He served as a member of the Ocean Studies Board, the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, and many committees. He also chaired a number of influential Academy studies on subjects ranging from the environmental effects of radiation to understanding sea-level change.

This lecture was created by the Ocean Studies Board in honor of Dr. Roger Revelle to highlight the important links between ocean sciences and public policy.

If you are interested in obtaining additional information or future lecture announcements, please email Pamela Lewis.


In 1999, the Ocean Studies Board (OSB) launched the Roger Revelle Commemorative Lecture to highlight the important links between ocean science and public policy. The series was named in honor of the late Roger Revelle, a leader in the field of oceanography for over 50 years who spearheaded efforts to investigate the mechanisms and consequences of climate change. In recognition of the critical importance of education in linking science and public policy, the OSB has partnered with the Smithsonian Science Education Center and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History to bring the Revelle Lecture to a broader audience. The lecture is held annually in conjunction with the OSB meeting in Washington, DC.


  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • The Office of Naval Research (ONR)
  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • The Smithsonian Science Education Center
  • The National Museum of Natural History
  • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation


For more information, please contact:

Pamela Lewis
Administrative Coordinator
Ocean Studies Board
(202) 334-2714

View the 2016 program