William Jackson Humphreys

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William Jackson Humphreys
William Jackson Humphreys.jpg
Born(1862-02-03)February 3, 1862
DiedNovember 10, 1949(1949-11-10) (aged 87)
AwardsHoward N. Potts Medal (1916)
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorHenry Augustus Rowland

William Jackson Humphreys (February 3, 1862 – November 10, 1949) was an American physicist and atmospheric researcher.


Humphreys was born on February 3, 1862 in Gap Mills, West Virginia to Jackson and Eliza Ann (née Eads) Humphreys.[1] He studied physics at Washington & Lee University in Virginia and later at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1897, studying under Henry Augustus Rowland.[2]

He worked in the fields of spectroscopy, atmospheric physics and meteorology. In the field of spectroscopy he found the shift of spectral lines under pressure. In atmospheric physics he found a very good model for the stratosphere in 1909. He wrote numerous books, including a textbook titled Physics of the Air, first published in 1920 and considered a standard work of the time,[2] though it was last published in 1940.[citation needed] He also held some teaching positions at universities. He concluded that the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora was responsible for the subsequent cooling known as the Year Without a Summer.[3]

From 1905 to 1935 he worked as a physicist for the U.S. Weather Bureau, predecessor of the National Weather Service.[2] In 1924 he was an Invited Speaker of the ICM in Toronto.[4]

He died on November 10, 1949 in Washington, D.C.



  1. ^ Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "NOAA History - Profiles in Time/NWS Biographies". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
  3. ^ https://climate.nasa.gov/blog/183
  4. ^ Humphreys, W. J. "The effect of surface drag on surface winds". In: Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto, August 11–16. 1924. vol. 2. pp. 297–304.