ACTIVE RESEARCH ERA: 20th/21st century 


  • University of Tokyo- Bachelor’s Degree and Doctorate 
  • National Weather Service
  • Princeton University- Faculty 


ENV 316

Background, early life, and outside interests: 

Syukuro Manabe was born in 1931 in Shikoku, an island south of Honshu. He grew up in an isolated area in a family of doctors, his brother, father, and grandfather were all physicians, but he chose a different path- physics. He wasn’t the best at math so he didn’t wanna get into the more intense side of physics but he also wasn't good at memorizing and measuring things so biology was out of the question and eventually he ended up in meteorology. He recalls that from a young age he remembered that he enjoyed daydreaming about the weather, he often found himself gazing into the sky. He still struggled in this field and learned meteorological physics at his own pace but when he and some other graduate students predicted the weather using physics he was deemed a rising star in the department. 

Manabe caught the attention of Joseph Smagorinsky, at the time he was the head of the U.S Weather Bureau’s General Circulation Research Section, and was recruited to come work in the US. and help Smagorinsky with his efforts to transform his department into the leading atmospheric-research institution in the world. In 1968, Manabe and his team were moved to Princeton University and Smagorinsky’s department became the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Now that Manabe has stopped research he spends his time reading books that he never found the time to read, he hopes to read some of the books his wife has written. 

Most Notable Achievements:

Although many scientists at the time could not agree on whether the earth would heat up or cool down, Manabe time and time again proved that the earth would heat up. In the 1960s he “led the development of physical models of the Earth’s Climate and was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses”. He was a pioneer in his field and most of his work and models are still heavily used today. In 2021 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to “the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming”. 

Barriers broken by this scientist:

When Manabe was 10 he experienced the Pearl Harbor bombing. When he was 13 the US launched a bombing campaign against Japan and Manabe witnessed all the planes fly over the island on their way to Honshu. He normalized all of these experiences and says that the war didn’t affect him very much and that he just spent most of his time studying for his exams. He does say though that he didn’t grow as much as he should’ve since he was malnourished during most of his youth. As an adult he has struggled with the publicity side of his job, he states time and time again that he loves the isolation his job gives and prefers to just do the science work. 

Advice to a student:

Manabe urges students to pursue what they like. Looking back on his life Manabe has thoroughly enjoyed what he does and even says that it was what he was best suited to do. He recalls a statement that says what one likes one does well so he encourages others to make sure they pursue a career in what they truly enjoy, by doing this their curiosity will never burn out. 


Fuller-Wright, Liz. 2022. "­­­­­­‘Great Fun’: Manabe Wins Nobel Prize In Physics For Modeling Climate Change". Princeton University.….

Nast, Condé. 2022. "The Man Who Predicted Climate Change". The New Yorker.….

Oba, Ai. 2022. "'I Never Thought Climate Would Become Such A Big Problem': Japan-Born Nobel Prize Winner - The Mainichi". The Mainichi.

"The Nobel Prize In Physics 2021". 2022. Nobelprize.Org.….


Written by Vanessa Herrera