UC San Diego atmospheric chemist Kim Prather, one of the country’s foremost experts on climate change, has been elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, a group that Benjamin Franklin and other luminaries founded in 1743 to promote the study of science and the humanities.
Prather is one of nearly 40 people who were chosen to join America’s oldest learned society. Over the years, its members have included Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur and Thomas Edison.
This year’s class includes, among others, Francis Collins, who helped lead the Human Genome Project; France Anne-Dominic Córdova, the former director of the National Science Foundation; and Stanford anthropologist Tanya Marie Luhrmann, widely known for her studies of charismatic Christians.
Prather told the Union-Tribune her election came “out of the blue. (It is) a society with only about 800 U.S. members across all disciplines. Truly humbling.”
The selection comes two years after Prather was elected to the elite National Academy of Sciences, founded during the Lincoln administration to advise the country on science and technology.
Over the past decade, Prather has been awarded more than $40 million in grants to study Earth’s changing climate. She heavily focuses examining how spray from breaking waves affects the formation and behavior of clouds, which in turn control the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface of a warming planet.
This work is meant, in part, to help scientists understand how climate change influences the sort of heat wave that hit much of inland San Diego County and other parts of California last week.
Prather works out of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she created the Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator (SOARS), a 118-foot long instrument whose wave tank and wind tunnel simulate conditions between the ocean and the atmosphere.