Michael B. McElroy

Michael B. McElroy

  • Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies


The atmosphere is an important resource, an indispensable component of the global life support system. Human activity can change its composition, altering climate, air quality, and radiation reaching us from the sun.

Michael McElroy studies changes in the composition of the atmosphere with an emphasis on the impact of human activity. His research includes investigations of processes affecting the abundance of ozone in the stratosphere and factors influencing the chemical composition of the troposphere. It explores the manner in which changes in the composition of the atmosphere affect climate.

It seeks to place the impact of contemporary human activity in a larger context by studying large-scale changes in the environment that occurred in the past. His research addresses also challenges for public policy posed by the rapid pace of industrialization in developing countries such as China and India while exploring alternative strategies for more sustainable development in mature economies such as the United States.

Contact Information

Nickname: Mike
Office:Pierce 100C
Office Phone:(617) 495-4359
Office Fax(617) 495-4551
Assistant:Brenda L Mathieu
Assistant Office:Pierce 109
Assistant Phone:(617) 496-5745
Research Mgr: Cecilia T. McCormack

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Scineces

  • 1996-Present: Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies

Harvard University Center for the Environment

  • 2001-2004: Director

MEDEA, Task Force appointed by Vice-President Gore to advise on environmental aspects of U.S. Intelligence

  • 1995: Chairman
Committee to Establish Undergraduate Concentration in Environmental Science and Public Policy, Harvard University,
  • 1993: Chairman

Harvard University Committee on Environment

  • 1991-2001: Chairman
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University
  • 1986-2000: Chairman
Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc., Cambridge, MA
  • 1977-2008: Director
  • 1977: Co-founder and Chairman of the Board
Center for Earth and Planetary Physics, Harvard University
  • 1975-1978: Director
  • 1970-1986: Member
Division of Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • 1970-1996: Abbott Lawrence Rotch Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
Planetary Sciences Division, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Tucson, AZ
  • 1967-1970: Physicist
  • 1965-1967: Associate Physicist
  • 1963-1965: Assistant Physicist¬†
Theoretical Chemistry Institute, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • 1962-1963: Postdoctoral Appointment

Other Experience & Professional Membership

  • Fellow and former Councillor, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • American Astronomical Society
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Fellow, International Academy of Astronautics


  • Elected Honorary Fellow, Royal Irish Academy, 2008
  • Honorary DSc., Queen's University of Belfast, N. Ireland, 1991
  • Research and Development Award, National Energy Resources Organization, 1989
  • George Ledlie Prize. For the person at Harvard University who "since the last awarding of said prize, has by research, discovery, or otherwise made the most valuable contribution to science, or in any way for the benefit of mankind," 1989
  • Eire Society Gold Medal Award, 1987
  • NASA Public Service Medal, 1978
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science Newcomb Cleveland Prize. Awarded collectively to all the participants in the Viking mission, 1977
  • James B. Macelwane Award by the American Geophysical Union for "outstanding contributions in the field of planetary atmospheres," 1968