Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thomas Malone: A Chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

I believe we are at a historical choice point in determining the kind of world our children's children will inherit. If we make these choices based only on the models of our industrial-age past, we will almost certainly miss the true opportunities before us. 
An environmentally sustainable, economically equitable, and socially stable and secure society in which all of the basic needs and an equitable share human "wants" can be met by successive generations while maintaining a healthy, physically attractive and biologically productive environment.
Thomas F. Malone
Thomas Malone was one of the prime movers in the revolution that catapulted weather and climate to a high position on the public agenda during the second half of the twentieth century. He chaired the U. S. National Commission for UNECO from 1965 to 1967.

Malone was born in 1917 in Sioux City, Iowa. Brought up at his parents homestead ranch in South Dakota, his schooling was interrupted in the 1930s by the need to help out on the ranch due to the drought and economic problems of the time.

He finally completed his high school studies in 1936 and attended college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, SD.

Awarded a graduate scholarship at MIT in 1940, Malone was soon selected to train Naval and Air Force officers in a special program of weather forecasting for military operations. Ultimately, he served as a special consultant to the 19th Weather Squadron at Payne Field in Cairo, Egypt, where he was charged with developing weather forecasts for an alternate route (the Red Ball Express) to military operations in the Pacific Theater. At the end of World War II, he returned to MIT and completed his doctoral studies in 1946.

As an Assistant Professor at MIT, he took a leave between 1949 and 1951 to edit the 1300 page Compendium of Meteorology, a report that set the stage for meteorological research in the second half of the 20th century. That, in turn, led to his appointment to a National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Meteorology charged with framing national initiatives in meteorological research and education.

Invited by a group of universities to prepare plans for what turned out to be the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO, Malone convened a series of planning conferences that produced the famous “Blue Book” – an agenda for NCAR. He later joined NCAR’s Board of Trustees, subsequently serving as its chair.

He left a tenured faculty appointment at MIT in 1955 to join The Travelers Insurance Companies where he went on to become Senior Vice President and Director of Research. He returned to academia in 1970 as Professor of Physics and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Connecticut.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was elected Foreign Secretary of the National Research Council in 1978.  He also chaired the Academy’s Geophysics Research Board and its Board on Atmospheric Physics and Climate. His overlapping presidencies of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, and his position as chair of the NAS Committee on Atmospheric Sciences, gave him stature to influence President Kennedy in his UN Address to propose a global program to improve weather forecasting and study climate change.

Malone also had a prominent role in the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). He was elected founding Secretary General of the ICSU’s Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) in 1970. In that role, and as a Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Connecticut, he was the lead-off speaker in a conference on “Technological Changes and the Human Environment” in preparation for the UN Conference on the Human Environment to be held in Stockholm in 1972.

He was on the U.S. delegation to the 1979 UN Conference on Science and Technology for Economic Development in Vienna and was was instrumental in the initiation of a grants program in the NAS’s Board on Science and Technology in Development, a U.S. initiative for UNCSTD. It was in that latter role that I came to know Dr. Malone and to respect his contributions (as I was part of the team planning for the initiative and the designated government official to negotiate the BOSTID grant).

Read more in Thomas F. Malone's autobiography (abridged)

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO presents a silver tray to President Harry S. Truman in recognition of his work to found UNESCO. Left to right are Commission Chair Thomas Malone, President Truman, Jennell Moorhead of the National PTA, and Forrest McCluncy, Chair of the Commission's 10th Annual Meeting Committee (11/20/65 - Kansas City, MO)

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