Charles D. Keeling, a scientist whose measurements showing a carbon-dioxide buildup in the atmosphere helped trigger fears of global warming, has died at 77.
HAMILTON, Mont. Charles D. Keeling, a scientist whose measurements showing a carbon-dioxide buildup in the atmosphere helped trigger fears of global warming, has died at 77.
Keeling, who died Monday after suffering a heart attack, was a pioneer in demonstrating that increased emissions of greenhouse gases could change the planet.
Beginning in 1955, he collected air samples to measure their carbon dioxide content. His measurements over the decades that followed showed that carbon dioxide levels were steadily rising -- a finding that shattered the conventional wisdom that Earth could soak up rising fossil fuel emissions without harm.
Charles Kennel, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with which Keeling was affiliated, called Keeling's measurements "the single most important environmental data set taken in the 20th century."
In 2002, President Bush selected Keeling for the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research.
"His research on the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, known to influence the greenhouse effect, established him as one of the world's leaders in environmental science," said Marye Anne Fox, chancellor at the University of California-San Diego, where Keeling was on the faculty.
Keeling, who also had a home in California, was born in Pennsylvania and studied chemistry at the University of Illinois. He earned a doctorate in chemistry from Northwestern University in 1954.
Montana neighbor and friend Jim Miller said Keeling was an ardent conservationist who felt his mission was to shed light on climate change.
"He left the politics and the activism to others," Miller said. "He produced the science that would back up what the environmental community knows in its heart -- that we have to do something about global warming."
Keeling is survived by his wife, Louise, five children, and a sister. A family memorial service was scheduled for Saturday in Montana.
Source: Associated Press