AGU awards the Twentieth Presentation of the James B. Macelwane Award to Ronald J. Prinn, David Southwood, and Donald J. Weidner


  • James C. G. Walker,

  • Ralph J. Cicerone,

  • Ronald G. Prinn,

  • Christopher T. Russell,

  • David Southwood,

  • Thomas J. Ahrens,

  • Donald J. Weidner


Mr. President, ladies, and gentlemen: We are honoring tonight a young scientist who combines an unusually broad knowledge of the chemistry and dynamics of planetary atmospheres with a healthy skepticism regarding established dogma and a marvelous ability to shrug off the displeasure of established dogmatists.

Ron Prinn's theoretical research has significantly influenced our understanding of the terrestrial stratosphere as well as the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter. Since 1980, when he joined the Department of Meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has been a leading participant in collaborative efforts to develop numerical models of the stratosphere combining comprehensive chemistry with realistic dynamics. Such models have been a rich source of controversy in our continuing efforts to predict man's potential impact on the ozone layer. Prinn's work on the chemistry of sulfur gases in the atmosphere of Venus, published in 1973 and 1975, foreshadowed the explosive growth of interest in the sulfur chemistry of the terrestrial atmosphere. By delimiting conditions for the predominance of either sulfur or sulfuric acid in the clouds of Venus, his work provided a basis for the interpretation of Pioneer Venus data. It was Prinn who suggested that the spectacular dark markings on ultraviolet images of Venus are caused by sulfur. More recently he has discussed the contribution of phosphorus to the color of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. Not forsaking the mother planet, he is currently engaged in efforts to determine from field measurements whether there is any truth in the well-established theory that freon, methyl chloroform, and nitrous oxide are chemically inert in the troposphere.