Joanne Gerould Simpson

March 23, 1923 ~ March 4, 2010
Joanne Simpson had happy memories of growing up in Boston and the South Shore, sailing in the summers, leaning math and history at her beloved Buckingham School in the winters. She read and came under the influence of Maynard Hutchins and went off to the University of Chicago and was led into science by studying astrophysics.
After WWII, women meteorologists were told to go home. During the conflict, they had been called up “to help the boys.” Her war role was to teach the men to go out with the troops and ships to forecast weather. To do this, she had to learn meteorology. She learned, inspired by the great Swedish meteorologist, Carl Rossby, despite his disdain for female scientists. In 1947, she got the great Chicago professor Herbert Riehl to agree to accept her as a Ph.D. student. Then, and for 20 years afterward, Riehl and she build and edifice of ideas and observations showing how important tropical clouds are in the heat and energy budgets of the Earth. Towering cumulus-type clouds are the combustion cylinders of the atmospheric circulation and also of tropical hurricanes. Their most cited work is on the “hot tower” hypothesis showing how these very tall clouds carry up and release the latent heat, the fuel of the atmospheric engine.
After she achieved her doctorate – the first ever achieved by a woman in Meteorology – she went to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In the early 1960s she focused more intensely on hurricanes, because “Mr. Hurricane” Bob Simpson became her research partner and husband. Her last important move was from the University of Virginia, to NASA in 1979. The best contribution she believed that she had made at NASA was to lead a team of dedicated experts developing the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, which has led to substantial forecast improvements and understanding of tropical rainfall.
In 1980's, Joanne Simpson hired and mentored Dr. Wei-Kuo Tao to create foundation of the Mesoscale Modeling & Dynamics Group at NASA GSFC. The American Meteorological Society, of which she was President in 1989, and the leaders at NASA had given her so many awards and honors that the walls of her office were covered with them.
The Front Page, ametsoc (45 beacon)
NASA Earth Observatory (more complete story of Joanne)
Wikipedia (brief profile of Joanne)