Happer in 2018
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Known for||Optical pumping, atomic physics|
|Awards||Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics|
|Thesis||Frequency shifts in atomic beams resonances (1964)|
|Doctoral students||John Farley|
William "Will" Happer (born July 27, 1939) is an American physicist who has specialized in the study of atomic physics, optics and spectroscopy. He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Princeton University, and a long-term member of the JASON advisory group, where he pioneered the development of adaptive optics. From 1991 to 1993, Happer served as director of the Department of Energy's Office of Science as part of the George HW Bush administration.
Happer was born in Vellore, British India, the son of Dr. William Happer, a Scottish medical officer in the Indian Army, and Dr. Gladys Morgan Happer, a medical missionary for the Lutheran Church of North Carolina. Happer spent the years of World War II with his mother in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. After the war and a return to India, his family emigrated to North Carolina.
His academic career started at Columbia University, where he became a full professor and director of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory. In 1980, he left to go to Princeton, where he became Class of 1990 Professor of Physics. In 1991, he joined the United States Department of Energy, where he was the director of its research budget of $3 billion. In 1993, he returned to his position at Princeton, where he became the chair of the University Research Board in 1995.
Happer describes his laboratory's research interests in atomic physics: "we're interested in the mechanisms that limit the performance of optical pumping systems, such as atomic clocks, magnetometers, and laser guide-star adaptive optics systems."
Happer joined the JASON advisory group in 1976, and he continues to be active there. Happer is credited with a key insight in 1982 that made adaptive optics possible: there is a layer of sodium in the mesosphere, at around 90 to 100 km of elevation, which could be lit by a laser beam to make an artificial guide star. His idea was tested successfully by DARPA but classified for possible military applications. The military-designed technology was partially unclassified in 1991, after the same idea was independently proposed by two French astronomers. In 1994, Happer and co-authors published a declassified version of the JASON reports on adaptive optics. Happer was chairman of the steering committee for JASON, 1987–1990.
Also, he has had numerous other assignments: trustee of the MITRE Corporation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation and the Marshall Institute. He is also chairman, since 2006, of the last. He co-founded Magnetic Imaging Technologies Inc. in 1994.
Happer disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change, stating that “Some small fraction of the 1° C warming during the past two centuries must have been due to increasing CO2, which is indeed a greenhouse gas”, but argues that “most of the warming has probably been due to natural causes.” Michael Oppenheimer said that Happer’s claims are “simply not true” and that the preponderance of evidence and majority of expert opinion points to a strong anthropogenic influence on rising global temperatures. Climate Science Watch published a point-by-point rebuttal to one of Happer’s articles. A petition that he coauthored to change the official position of the American Physical Society to a version that raised doubts about global warming was overwhelmingly rejected by the APS Council.
In May 2013, Happer and Harrison Schmitt published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "In Defense of Carbon Dioxide," in which they termed elevated atmospheric CO2 "a boon to plant life." It was described by Ryan Chittum in the Columbia Journalism Review as "shameful, even for the dismal standards" of the editorial page.
In December 2015, Happer was targeted in a sting operation by the environmental activist group Greenpeace. Posing as consultants for a Middle Eastern oil and gas company, they asked Happer to write a report touting the benefits of rising carbon emissions. Happer asked for the fee from this work to be donated to the "objective evidence" climate-change organization CO2 Coalition, which suggested that he contact the Donors Trust to keep the source of the funds secret as requested by Greenpeace. Hiding the sources of funding in this way is lawful under US law. Happer further acknowledged that his report would probably not pass peer-review with a scientific journal.
In 2017 following the election of Donald Trump into office, Happer met with Trump to discuss his potential role of being his science adviser and said that he would take the job if it was offered. Happer described Trump as "very attentive" and that the president's concerns "were that of a technically literate person." Hannah Devlin of The Guardian wrote that Happer "supports a controversial crackdown on the freedom of federal agency scientists to speak out about their findings, arguing that mixed messages... have led to people disregarding all public health information."
He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship in 1966, an Alexander von Humboldt award in 1976, the Herbert P. Broida Prize in 1997, the Davisson-Germer Prize and the Thomas Alva Edison patent award in 2000. In 2003, he was named the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University. Currently, he is a Professor Emeritus.
- Thad G. Walker and William Happer, "Spin-exchange optical pumping of noble-gas nuclei": Rev. Mod. Phys. 69, 629–642 (1997). doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.69.629
- W. Happer, G. J. MacDonald, C. E. Max, and F. J. Dyson, "Atmospheric-turbulence compensation by resonant optical backscattering from the sodium layer in the upper atmosphere," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 11, 263-276 (1994): abstract
- William Happer, "Optical Pumping": Review of Modern Physics, vol. 44, Issue 2, pp. 169–249 (1972). DOI:10.1103/RevModPhys.44.169
- William Happer biography at the American Institute of Physics,
- Alan Shaw (2004), University research centers of excellence for homeland security, National Academies Press, ISBN 978-0-309-09236-4
- Brackett, Cyrus Fogg (1833-1915), first Joseph Henry Professor of Physics and founder of the Electrical Engineering Department at Princeton
- Ann Finkbeiner, The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite, pp. 222-225. Viking/Penguin, 2006, ISBN 0-670-03489-4
- William Happer, Princeton University
- Ann Finkbeiner, The Jasons, pp. 157-167
- W. Happer, G. J. MacDonald, C. E. Max, and F. J. Dyson, "Atmospheric-turbulence compensation by resonant optical backscattering from the sodium layer in the upper atmosphere," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 11, 263-276 (1994): abstract.
- Happer Named Institute Chairman (PDF), George C. Marshall Institute, 2006
- Happer interview with The Best Schools
- Brusca, Raymond (2009), Professor denies global warming theory, The Daily Princetonian, retrieved May 11, 2017
- Michael MacCraken's response, "The Real Truth about Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change: Paragraph-by-Paragraph Comments on an Article by Dr. William Happer" at Climate Science Watch, September 2011
- APS Council Overwhelmingly Rejects Proposal to Replace Society’s Current Climate Change Statement, 2009
- Happer's article, "In Defense of Carbon Dioxide", Wall St. Journal, May, 2013
- "The WSJ editorial page hits rock bottom", Columbia Journalism Review, May 9, 2013
- Suzanne Goldenberg, "Greenpeace exposes sceptics hired to cast doubt on climate science", The Guardian, December 8, 2015.
- Hannah Devlin, Trump's likely science adviser calls climate scientists 'glassy-eyed cult', The Guardian, February 15, 2017.
- Miranda Green (September 4, 2018). "Climate skeptic to join NSC, advise Trump on emerging technologies". The Hill. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
President Trump is appointing William Happer, a well-known climate skeptic, to his National Security Council (NSC).
- "Happer and Ong named to endowed professorships". Princeton Weekly Bulletin. 2003-02-24.