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John Houghton (physicist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Houghton
Sir John Houghton speaking at a climate change conference in 2005
John Theodore Houghton

(1931-12-30)30 December 1931
Died15 April 2020(2020-04-15) (aged 88)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materJesus College, Oxford (BA 1951, MA 1955, DPhil 1955)[1]
AwardsThe Chree Medal and Prize (1979)
Japan Prize (2006)
Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2009)
Scientific career
FieldsAtmospheric physics

Sir John Theodore Houghton CBE FRS FLSW (30 December 1931 – 15 April 2020) was a Welsh atmospheric physicist who was the co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) scientific assessment working group which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore.[2] He was lead editor of the first three IPCC reports. He was professor in atmospheric physics at the University of Oxford, former Director General at the Met Office and founder of the Hadley Centre.[3]

He was the president of the John Ray Initiative, an organisation "connecting Environment, Science and Christianity",[4] where he has compared the stewardship of the Earth, to the stewardship of the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve.[5] He was a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion. He became the president of the Victoria Institute in 2005.[6]

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Born in Dyserth, John Theodore Houghton was the second of the three sons of Sidney and Miriam (née Yarwood) Houghton. His older brother, David (died 2015), became a meteorologist.[7] The third and youngest brother, Paul Houghton, became a lecturer in engineering and was treasurer and company chairman of the John Ray Initiative, connecting the environment, science and Christianity.

The family moved to Rhyl when John was two, and he attended Rhyl Grammar School where he discovered his interest in science. He continued his education at Jesus College, Oxford, gaining a BA in 1951, MA (Oxon) and DPhil in 1955.[1][8]

He was brought up as an evangelical Christian by devout Christian parents and believed in science and Christianity as strengthening each other, as well as Christianity and environmentalism. Houghton's evangelical Christianity combined with his scientific background made him a significant voice in evangelical Christian circles. He was a supporter of and advisor to the international Christian relief and development agency Tearfund.[9] He was also an elder at Aberdovey Presbyterian Church.

In 1962, Houghton married Dr Margaret Broughton, daughter of a mill owner in Colwyn, Lancashire, and they had two children and seven grandchildren. Following her death from cancer in 1986, he set up the Margaret Houghton Memorial Fund, a research unit on medical nursing in her memory. His second wife, Sheila, became his companion for almost thirty years.[3]

Posts include:

He was knighted in 1991.[3] Houghton was an Honorary Scientist of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research at the Met Office (since 2002); Honorary Scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (since 1991); a Trustee of the Shell Foundation (since 2000); Chairman of the John Ray Initiative (since 1997)[8][11][12] and in 2013 was announced as an Advisory Board member for Sure Chill Technology. He moved back to Wales and lived in Aberdyfi.[13] In 2007 he criticised the controversial documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle for its inaccuracies.[14]

He died of complications from COVID-19 on 15 April 2020, aged 88.[15][2]

Awards and honours

He received Honorary Doctorates of Science from the Universities of Wales (1991), Stirling (1992), East Anglia (1993), Leeds (1995), Heriot-Watt (1996), Greenwich (1997), Glamorgan (1998), Reading (1999), Birmingham (2000), Gloucestershire (2001), Hull (2002) and Dalhousie (2010).[24] He was an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford,[25] University of Wales, Aberystwyth and of University of Wales, Lampeter and was also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.[26]


A metal sculpture of Sir John Houghton was erected in Rhyl in 2013, together with figures of two other local celebrities, Don Spendlove and Mike Peters.[27]

Selected publications

  • Does God Play Dice? 1988, Intervarsity Press[10]
  • Global Warming, the Complete Briefing, 1994, Lion Publishing (2nd edition 1997, Cambridge University Press; 3rd edition 2004, Cambridge University Press; 4th edition 2010, Cambridge University Press; 5th edition 2015, Cambridge University Press)[3]
  • The search for God; can science help? 1995, Lion Publishing[10]
  • Physics of Atmospheres, 1977. 2nd edition 1986, 3rd edition 2002, Cambridge University Press.
  • Climate Change, the IPCC Scientific Assessment, eds J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums, 1990, Cambridge University Press[10]
  • Climate Change 1992, the Supplementary Report to the IPCC Scientific Assessment, eds. J.T. Houghton, B.A. Callander and S.K. Varney, 1992, Cambridge University Press[10]
  • Climate Change 1994, Radiative Forcing of Climate Change and an Evaluation of the IPCC IS92 Emission Scenarios, eds. J.T. Houghton, L.G. Meira Filho, J. Bruce, Hoesung Lee, B.A. Callander, E. Haites, N. Harris and K. Maskell, 1994, Cambridge University Press[10]
  • Climate Change 1995, the Science of Climate Change, eds. J.T. Houghton, L.G. Meira Filho, B.A.Callander, N. Harris, A. Kattenberg and K. Maskell, 1995, Cambridge University Press[10]
  • Climate Change 2001, The Scientific Basis, eds J.T. Houghton, Y. Ding, D.J. Griggs, M. Noguer, P.J. van der Linden, X. Dai, K. Maskell, C.A. Johnson, 2001 Cambridge University Press[10]


In a November 2006 article in Australia's The Daily Telegraph, journalist Piers Akerman quoted Houghton as saying "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen", attributing the quotation to his 1994 book Global Warming, The Complete Briefing. This has since been quoted by many deniers, including Benny Peiser and Christopher Monckton, and is listed at the top of the front page of Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster. However, the quotation does not appear in any edition of Houghton's book. Houghton never said any such thing and believed the opposite.[28] The publishers of The Real Global Warming Disaster, The Continuum International Publishing Group, apologised for the reference to that quotation, confirmed (in addition to Booker's confirmation) that it will not be repeated, and agreed to place a corrigendum in any further copies of the book.

In an article which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph on 20 February 2010, Christopher Booker purported to correct the misquotation contained in The Real Global Warming Disaster but this article contained yet further inaccuracies.[29] As a result, Houghton referred the matter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC Reference 101959). Following the PCC's involvement, The Sunday Telegraph published on 15 August 2010 a letter of correction by Houghton stating his true position.[30] An article supportive of Houghton also appeared in the edition of 21 May 2010 of New Scientist.[31]

The correct quotation was, "If we want a good environmental policy in the future we'll have to have a disaster. It's like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there's been an accident."[32]


  1. ^ a b "Prof. Sir John Houghton – Brief biography". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Welsh climate scientist dies of suspected Covid-19". BBC News. 17 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "John Houghton, renowned climate scientist who led IPCC reports, dies of coronavirus at 88". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  4. ^ "DSc for JRI Chairman" at The John Ray Initiative website
  5. ^ "The Christian Challenge of Caring for the Earth Archived 7 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine" at The John Ray Initiative website
  6. ^ Houghton, John. "The Challenge of Sustainability. Victoria Institute Presidential Address. 1st October 2005" (PDF). Faith and thought. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Obituary: David Houghton". Weather. 70 (12): 345. 2015. Bibcode:2015Wthr...70..345.. doi:10.1002/wea.2566.
  8. ^ a b "The Japan Prize Foundation". Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  9. ^ Atkins, Andy (8 May 2020). "Obituary: Sir John Houghton". Church Times.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Chancellor's Distinguished Fellows:Sir John T. Houghton". UC Irvine Libraries. Archived from the original on 25 February 2003. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2009". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  12. ^ Bio details heavily drawn from bio at the Faraday Institute Archived 10 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Scientist's climate change honour". BBC. 16 January 2006. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Critique Channel4 Global Warming Swindle" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 August 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  15. ^ Bob Henson (16 April 2020). "Sir John Houghton, Climate Scientist and Founding IPCC Editor, Dies at 88". The Weather Channel.
  16. ^ "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2009". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  17. ^ "International Meteorological Organization (IMO) Prize". World Meteorological Organization. World Meteorolical Association (WMO). 9 December 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  18. ^ a b "In our thoughts". Royal Meteorological Society. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  19. ^ "Awards History" (PDF). Royal Meteorological Society. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  20. ^ "Glazebook Medal Recipients". IOP. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  21. ^ "Laureates of the Japan Prize - Sir John Houghton". Japan Prize Foundation. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Edward Appleton medal recipients". IOP. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  23. ^ White, Robert S. (2022). "Sir John Theodore Houghton. 30 December 1931 — 15 April 2020". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 73: 291–314. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2022.0014. S2CID 250458991.
  24. ^ "Academy of Europe:Houghton John". Academy of Europe. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  25. ^ "Sir John Houghton CBE FRS FLSW". Jesus College, Oxford. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Founding Fellows". The Learned Society of Wales. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  27. ^ Matt Jones (8 October 2013). "Three icons of Rhyl unveiled at entrance to harbour bridge". Rhyl, Prestatyn and Abergele Journal. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist", The Independent, 10 February 2010, retrieved 10 February 2010
  29. ^ "Article by Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph, "What the weatherman never said"", The Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2010, retrieved 10 February 2010
  30. ^ "Letter by Sir John Houghton in The Sunday Telegraph, 15 August 2010", The Sunday Telegraph, 15 August 2010, retrieved 9 January 2010
  31. ^ ""Living in denial: Unleashing a lie", Jim Giles, New Scientist, 21 May 2010", New Scientist, May 2010, retrieved 9 January 2010
  32. ^ 'Me and My God', Sir John Houghton talks to Frances Welch, 10 August 1995 (PDF), 10 August 1995

External links

This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 00:11
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