The First Decade

The first catalog of the Farmers' High School, issued in 1859, listed a course in Geography and Meteorology that concentrated on the implications of temperature, precipitation, and other meteorological factors on crop production.

Helmut Landsberg, former director of the Taunus Observatory of Geophysics and Meteorology at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, was the first meteorologist appointed in the School. He arrived in the fall of 1934 and was located in the Department of Mining Engineering. His duties were extremely broad and were outlined in the November 1934 issue of Mineral Industries: "He will teach the regular courses in geophysical methods of prospecting, climatology, and physics of mining. His research in the beginning will have to do with the general application of geophysical principles to ground movement, subsidence, roof support and the development of instruments for measuring accumulated stresses which cause strain and ruptures in rocks during mining operations. Along with the research, which is of prime importance to the mining industry in Pennsylvania, will be the development of a meteorological and seismological laboratory, including a seismograph for recording earthquakes. The entire program will be carried on in cooperation with the mining and primary mineral industries in Pennsylvania."

Student Forecaster


The instructional program in Meteorology began in 1934-35, when twenty-three students took a one-credit course in Weather Forecasting. Daily weather maps were drawn and forecasts issued based on methods of air mass analysis, which at that time had not yet been officially introduced into the public weather service of the United States. In the fall of 1935 two new three-credit courses on General Meteorology and Physical Climatology were made available. These courses were listed in the College catalog under "Geography."

In 1937 Hans Neuberger, a recent Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg, was the second faculty member with training in meteorology appointed to the School. His talents and experiences in the field of Atmospheric Turbidity and his skill in designing and handling instruments made him a very valuable addition to the staff; especially since the demand for weather information was growing.

In the late 1930s, the Penn State Meteorology program benefited from the fifteen-month visit of a European refugee and foremost Austrian climatologist, Victor Conrad, of the University of Vienna. He not only provided intellectual stimulation, but also performed research on world-wide rainfall variability. In fact, he made a study of periodicities, using an uninterrupted series of temperature and rainfall data recorded at the Penn State Agricultural Experiment Station since 1880.

In 1938, with the construction of the new wing of the Mineral Industries Building, a larger laboratory on the top floor with a Meteorological Observatory Platform on the roof was completed. During the same period, Dr. Neuberger began an interesting series of observations on Atmospheric Polarization with a polarimeter of his own design.

Hans Neuberger

In 1939, the expanding commercial and military air traffic business created a new niche for professional meteorologists. The School was asked to prepare courses in Meteorology for a civilian pilot training program. This initiated a program that benefited the School for a number of years.

In 1940 a closer cooperation with the U.S. Weather Bureau began. As early as 1880, a climatological station had been installed in conjunction with the Agricultural Experiment Station. In an agreement between the deans of Agriculture and Mineral Industries in 1934, the Geophysics Laboratory would not duplicate records taken at the Agricultural Experiment Station. In August 1940, due in part to loss of an agricultural observer, the climate work was transferred to the Geophysics Laboratory. New equipment was installed and the Observatory was raised to the position of a first-order station. All meteorological elements were automatically recorded on a twenty-four-hour basis by operating instruments. At that time the observatory was the only one in Pennsylvania that recorded the intensity of solar and sky radiation. In July 1940, the Federal State Flood Forecasting Service installed a short-wave radio station on the Meteorological Platform of the Mineral Industries Building (Steidle Building). This equipment permitted the College to furnish daily weather information to the Harrisburg office of the Flood Forecasting Service.

The requests for weather information from students, faculty, townspeople, government agencies, and others continued to grow. These requests ranged from simple information, such as daily weather forecasts, to difficult problems occasionally requiring weeks of special research. On several occasions, foreign governments requested details of studies made in the Geophysical Laboratory.

As early as 1944, and for one decade, the Division of Meteorology labored under Dr. Hans Neuberger's able guidance. In restructuring the School of Mineral Industries, Dean Edward Steidle felt that Meteorology was a fundamental Earth Science and played an equal role with Geological Sciences and Geography in investigating problems covering the utilization of the earth's resources. In his volume on Mineral Industries Education (1950) he wrote: "While the possibility of human control of weather elements has been demonstrated recently by successful rain-making experiments, for a long time to come, agriculture, industry, and various other activities must rely on weather forecasting for economic planning and preparation against the adverse effects of the weather… The principal work of meteorologists deals with the interpretation of atmospheric phenomena… The proposed influence of the weather on various aspects of our daily life must be more thoroughly investigated. The increase of our knowledge of climate and weather is not only necessary for the present, but it builds a research foundation upon which future generations can rely to make increasing use of solar and wind energy. Meteorology is given equal status with other subject matter fields at Penn State." Four years later, the Department of Meteorology was born.

Meteorology Department Heads


Meteorology Department Heads:  Five Department Heads (John A. Dutton, Alfred Blackadar, Hans Neuberger, Helmut Landsberg and Charles H. Hosler) and One Evan Pugh Professor (Hans Panofsky) at the 50th Anniversary of the Program.



Department of Mining Engineering

Helmut Landsberg

1934 - 1937

Department of Geology, Mineralogy, and Geography

Helmut Landsberg

Hans Neuberger

1937 - 1941

1941 - 1944

Department of Earth Sciences: Division of Meteorology

Hans Neuberger

1944 - 1954

Department of Meteorology

Hans Neuberger

Charles L. Hosler

Hans Neuberger

Alfred K. Blackadar

John A. Dutton

William M. Frank

Dennis W. Thomson

William H. Brune

David J. Stensrud

Paul M. Markowski

1954 - 1961

1961 - 1965

1965 - 1967

1967 - 1981

1981 - 1985

1985 - 1992

1992 - 1998

1999 - 2014

2014 - 2023

2023 - Present