Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Space Sciences in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

History of AOSS

Atmospheric, Oceanic & Space Sciences / Space Physics Research Laboratory: 1837 — 2003

CoverDid you know that in 1854 the first engineering faculty member purchased U-M’s original meteorological instruments?

Did you know that engineering was part of LS&A until 1895?

These are just a couple of the interesting historical facts about AOSS and SPRL that you’ll find in, “Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences / Space Physics Research Laboratory: 1837 — 2003”. This mini-history of AOSS and SPRL contains some little known facts in addition to well-known information and it’s just the beginning of a larger project.

A brief history of the department and the laboratory is now available. (PDF file)


In 1946 William G. Dow established the Space Physics Research Laboratory within the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering. In 1954, with the hiring of Professor Wendell Hewson by the Civil Engineering Department, meteorology studies came to the University of Michigan. From these events came:

  • Excellence in atmospheric, planetary and space sciences and engineering
  • Unique capacities to design, and build space-borne instruments and analyze their measurements
  • Unique capacities to measure atmospheric constituents on Earth and other planets
  • Excellence in modeling space and atmospheric systems


In the late 1960s the disciplines of meteorology and space sciences were unified into the College of Engineering Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. The proven blending of this knowledge has put the Department, its faculty and students at the forefront of the necessary movement in space research and the industry to understand the Earth, atmosphere, planets, solar system and space weather in a whole systemic view, rather than individual components. The proud history of the disciplines has yielded a department honored for its work and ready to educate new generations of scientists and engineers prepared for the future in the University of Michigan tradition: The Leaders and the Best.

More about Atmospheric and Oceanic History
More about Space Science and Engineering History