Walter Orr Roberts Stands smiling on the roof of the Mesa Lab with the Flatirons in the background.

Walter Orr Roberts

Walter Orr Roberts was a renowned scientist, leader, and pioneer in the fields of solar-terrestrial study, astronomy, and climate science. He established and directed the High Altitude Observatory (HAO); founded the Department of Astro-Geophysics at the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU-Boulder); served as the first director of the National Center for Atmopheric Research (NCAR); the first president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and led the Program on Food, Climate, and the World’s Future at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. He was a tireless advocate for an active response to climate change, international scientific collaboration, and science education. Beyond these individual accomplishments, he built a scientific community in Boulder, creating long-lasting partnerships, including those between NCAR, HAO, and CU-Boulder that continue to grow and thrive today.

This exhibit brings together material from the NCAR Archives and the Special Collections, Archives, and Preservation at the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries to tell the story of Walter Orr Roberts and his significant impact on the institutions he was involved with, and his lasting legacy in the scientific enterprise.

Walter Orr Roberts established the High Altitude Observatory, founded the Department of Astro-Geophysics at CU-Boulder, and served as the first director of NCAR and the first president of UCAR. Roberts helped build a scientific community in Boulder and created lasting partnerships between scientific institutions in the area.  

High Altitude Observatory

The Climax Observatory, founded by Roberts in 1940, played a crucial role in WWII and would become the world class High Altitude Observatory.

University of Colorado at Boulder

HAO incorporated with CU-Boulder and Harvard University in 1946, beginning a long partnership between CU and HAO.

National Center for Atmospheric Research

When Roberts was chosen to lead NCAR he brought HAO with him and advocated for Boulder as the headquarters.

Boulder, Colorado

BOULDER, COLORADO In bringing HAO and NCAR to Boulder, Roberts helped shape a scientific city.

Writings and Achievements

Roberts' life, writings, advocacy, and scientific work.