William Happer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Will Happer
William Happer by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Happer in 2018
Born (1939-07-27) July 27, 1939 (age 83)
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BS)
Princeton University (MS, PhD)
AwardsDavisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics
Scientific career
FieldsOptical pumping
Atomic physics
InstitutionsPrinceton University
ThesisFrequency shifts in atomic beams resonances (1964)
Doctoral studentsJohn Farley
Other notable studentsJulia Hsu

William Happer (born July 27, 1939[1]) is an American physicist who has specialized in the study of atomic physics, optics and spectroscopy.[2] He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett[3] Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Princeton University,[2] and a long-term member of the JASON advisory group,[1] 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 H.W. Bush administration. He was dismissed from the Department of Energy in 1993 by the Clinton Administration after disagreements on the ozone hole.[4]

Happer, who is not a climate scientist, rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2018, Donald Trump appointed him to the National Security Council to counter evidence linking carbon dioxide emissions to global warming.[5][6] He resigned from the council in 2019.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Happer was born in Vellore, British India, the son of William Happer, a Scottish medical officer in the Indian Army, and 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.[8] He studied physics at the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1960. He earned his doctorate at Princeton University in 1964.[2]


Happer's academic career began at Columbia University, where he eventually became a full professor and director of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory.[2]

Happer joined the JASON advisory group in 1976, and was still active there in 2005.[1]

In 1980, he left Columbia to go to Princeton.[2] He 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.[9][10] Happer was chairman of the steering committee for JASON, from 1987 to 1990,[1] and was the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics at Princeton University from 1988 to 1991.[11] In 1991, he joined the United States Department of Energy as director of energy research.[2] He served in that position until being dismissed in 1993 for his views on the ozone layer,[4] after which he returned to his position at Princeton.[2] He co-founded Magnetic Imaging Technologies Inc. in 1994.[2] He held the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professorship of Physics from 2003 until his retirement in 2014.[12]

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."[13]

Happer has served as a trustee of the MITRE Corporation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, and the Marshall Institute,[2] of which he was chairman from 2006 until it was disbanded in 2015.[14]

Happer is a co-founder and board member of an advocacy group called the CO2 Coalition, established in 2015.[15] He has described the group as aiming to "educate the public that increased atmospheric levels of CO2 will benefit the world".[16] The group has been funded by donations of over $100,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Mercer Family Foundation of Robert Mercer and Rebekah Mercer, as well as $50,000 each from the Searle Freedom Trust, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Achelis and Bodman Foundation.[16]


Climate change position[edit]

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."[17] 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.[18] Climate Science Watch published a point-by-point rebuttal to one of Happer’s articles.[19] 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.[20] Happer has no formal training as a climate scientist,[5] and says that his beliefs about climate change come from his experience at the Department of Energy, at which he supervised all non-weapons energy research, including climate change research.[18]

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."[21][22] It was described by Ryan Chittum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, in the Columbia Journalism Review as "shameful, even for the dismal standards" of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.[23]

In 2014, Happer said that the "demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler."[24][25][26]

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 declined a fee for his work, calling it a "labor of love", but said that they could donate 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 the Greenpeace sting operation. Hiding the sources of funding in this way is lawful under U.S. law. Happer further acknowledged that his report would probably not pass peer-review with a scientific journal.[27] In an interview, Happer responded to the sting operation: "I was only interested in helping the 'client' to publicize my long-held views, not to peddle whatever message the 'client' had in mind ... I have never taken a dime for any of my activities to educate the public that more CO2 will benefit the world."[17]


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.[28] Happer described Trump as "very attentive" and that the president's concerns "were that of a technically literate person."[28] 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."[28]

In early September 2018 it was announced that Happer would be appointed senior director of the National Security Council office for emerging technologies.[29] He resigned from the Council in September 2019, reportedly because his plan to review climate science did not receive sufficient support from the White House. It was shelved as some members of the administration, including Kelvin Droegemeier, believed it could harm Trump in his 2020 re-election campaign.[7]


Happer is a fellow of the American Physical Society. Happer was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1996.[30][31] He received a Sloan Research Fellowship in 1967, the Herbert P. Broida Prize in 1997, the Davisson-Germer Prize and the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award in 2000.[2] In 2003, he was named the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University.[32] Currently, he is a Professor Emeritus.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Walker, Thad G.; Happer, William (1997). "Spin-exchange optical pumping of noble-gas nuclei". Reviews of Modern Physics. 69 (2): 629–642. Bibcode:1997RvMP...69..629W. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.69.629.
  • Happer, W.; MacDonald, G. J.; Max, C. E.; Dyson, F. J. (1994). "Atmospheric-turbulence compensation by resonant optical backscattering from the sodium layer in the upper atmosphere". Journal of the Optical Society of America A. 11 (1): 263–276. Bibcode:1994JOSAA..11..263H. doi:10.1364/JOSAA.11.000263.
  • Happer, William (1972). "Optical Pumping". Reviews of Modern Physics. 44 (2): 169–249. Bibcode:1972RvMP...44..169H. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.44.169.
  • Happer, William (2014). "Why has global warming paused?". International Journal of Modern Physics A. 29 (7). Bibcode:2014IJMPA..2960003H. doi:10.1142/S0217751X14600033.
  • van Wijngaarden, W. A.; Happer, W. (2020). "Dependence of Earth's Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases". arXiv:2006.03098 [physics.ao-ph].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "William Happer". Array of Contemporary American Physicists. American Institute of Physics. Archived from the original on 2017-01-24. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Alan Shaw (2004), University research centers of excellence for homeland security, National Academies Press, doi:10.17226/10984, ISBN 978-0-309-09236-4
  3. ^ Brackett, Cyrus Fogg (1833-1915), first Joseph Henry Professor of Physics and founder of the Electrical Engineering Department at Princeton
  4. ^ a b Goodwin, Irwin (1993), "Happer Leaves DOE Under Ozone Cloud for Violating Political Correctness", Physics Today, 46 (6): 89–91, Bibcode:1993PhT....46f..89G, doi:10.1063/1.2808934
  5. ^ a b "White House readies panel to assess if climate change poses a national security threat". The Washington Post. February 20, 2019.
  6. ^ Niina Farah and Robin Bravender, Emails reveal behind-the-scenes plans for climate debate, ClimateWire, May 10, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Waldman, Scott (2019). "Why a high-profile climate science opponent quit Trump's White House". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aaz4845.
  8. ^ Ann Finkbeiner, The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite, pp. 222-225. Viking/Penguin, 2006, ISBN 0-670-03489-4
  9. ^ Ann Finkbeiner, The Jasons, pp. 157-167
  10. ^ Happer, W.; MacDonald, G. J.; Max, C. E.; Dyson, F. J. (1994). "Atmospheric-turbulence compensation by resonant optical backscattering from the sodium layer in the upper atmosphere". Journal of the Optical Society of America A. 11 (1): 263–276. Bibcode:1994JOSAA..11..263H. doi:10.1364/JOSAA.11.000263.
  11. ^ "Professorships | Dean of the Faculty". dof.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  12. ^ "William Happer, Ph.D." The Heartland Institute.
  13. ^ William Happer, Princeton University
  14. ^ Happer Named Institute Chairman (PDF), George C. Marshall Institute, 2006
  15. ^ Cole, Devan. "Washington Post: Climate skeptic may lead WH panel to study climate change and national security". CNN. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  16. ^ a b Hirji, Zahra. "Here's How Much Money The Mercer Family Donated To Climate Misinformation Groups In 2016". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  17. ^ a b "William Happer Interview". The Best Schools. 2016-02-12. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  18. ^ a b Brusca, Raymond (2009), Professor denies global warming theory, The Daily Princetonian, retrieved May 11, 2017
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ APS Council Overwhelmingly Rejects Proposal to Replace Society's Current Climate Change Statement, 2009
  21. ^ Happer's article, "In Defense of Carbon Dioxide", Wall St. Journal, May, 2013
  22. ^ Happer, William; Schmitt, Harrison H. (2013-05-09). "In Defense of Carbon Dioxide". The Heartland Institute. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  23. ^ "The WSJ editorial page hits rock bottom", Columbia Journalism Review, May 9, 2013
  24. ^ Gardner, Timothy (2019-02-20). "White House readies panel to question security risks of climate". www.cnbc.com. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  25. ^ Holmes, Jack (February 21, 2019). "The Head Honcho on Trump's New Climate Change Panel Compared Carbon Dioxide to Jewish People: Both, he said, have been wrongly persecuted". Esquire. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  26. ^ Baynes, Chris (February 21, 2019). "Trump climate change panel set to be led by scientist who compared 'demonisation' of carbon dioxide to Holocaust". The Independent. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  27. ^ Suzanne Goldenberg, "Greenpeace exposes sceptics hired to cast doubt on climate science", The Guardian, December 8, 2015.
  28. ^ a b c Hannah Devlin, Trump's likely science adviser calls climate scientists 'glassy-eyed cult', The Guardian, February 15, 2017.
  29. ^ 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).
  30. ^ "William Happer". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  31. ^ "William Happer". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  32. ^ "Happer and Ong named to endowed professorships". Princeton Weekly Bulletin. 2003-02-24.

External links[edit]