Kaplan was notable for his studies of atmospheric phenomena, for his international activities in geophysics. Kaplan also participated in efforts to launch the first Earth satellite. Kaplan was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, chairman of the U.S. National Committee for the International Geophysical Year, the founder and first director of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of California (later known as the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics), an aerospace adviser to Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon, a recipient of the Smithsonian Institution's Hodgkins Medal in 1967, the head of the Air Force's Air Weather Service during World War II, a professor and professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Los Angeles, a fellow of American Geophysical Union, an honorary member of American Meteorological Society, a fellow of American Physical Society, an honorary member of National Association of Science Writers, and a founding member of the International Academy of Astronautics. Kaplan was President of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) from 1963 to 1967.
The Los Angeles Times said that Kaplan was "a pioneer in the chemistry and physics of the stratosphere". The Baltimore Sun called him "an expert on auroras and similar lights in the sky". In 1956, Kaplan warned of anthropogenic climate change. He was quoted in the New York Times saying that "during the next fifty years industrial burning of coal, oil and gas will produce 1,700 billion tons of new carbon dioxide. If all this carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere, the slight general warming that has occurred in northern latitudes may be intensified."
Notable awards and distinctions
- the John Adams Fleming Award of the American Geophysical Union (1970)
- the Commemorative Medal for the 50th Anniversary of the American Meteorological Society (1969)
- the Hodgkins Medal and Prize from the Smithsonian Institution
- the Astronautical Award from the American Rocket Society
- the War Department's Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service (1947)
- the Air Force's Exceptional Civilian Service Award (1960 and 1969)
- the degree of doctor of science from Carleton College and the University of Notre Dame
- L.H.D. degrees from Yeshiva University, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, and the University of Judaism
Career and life
Kaplan was born in Tapolca, Hungary, into a Jewish family, in 1902. In 1910 at the age of 8 he immigrated to the United States with his parents and 11 brothers and sisters. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a B.S. degree in chemistry and a M.S. and Ph.D. in physics. He spent his entire academic career at the University of California at Los Angeles (1928–1970). Kaplan died of a heart attack on October 3, 1991 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 89.
- New York Times:Joseph Kaplan, 89, a Researcher Of Atmospheric Phenomena, Dies; By SETH FAISON; October 7, 1991
- Baltimore Sun:Joseph Kaplan, 89, who was professor emeritus of physics. October 13, 1991
- National Academies Press:Biographical Memoirs:Joseph Kaplan,By William W. Kellogg and Charles A. Barth
- Lod Angeles Times:Joseph Kaplan; Pioneered in Study of Stratosphere;October 05, 1991
- NASA history;Sputnik Biographies;Joseph Kaplan
- "SCIENCE NOTES; Carbon Dioxide Due to Change Climate--Balloon Views". The New York Times. June 3, 1956.
- Louis Gershenfeld, The Jew in Science, Jewish Publication Society of America (1934), p. 197