Forrest M. Mims IIICitizen scientist

Published in 1993clockTime to read: 50s
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The inventions of self-taught scientist Forrest Mims have allowed amateurs and specialists across the world to measure the ozone layer that protects life on our planet.

locationUnited States

Almost 30 years ago, researchers made the alarming discovery that ozone concentrations in the stratosphere over Antarctica were declining precipitously. Knowing that stratospheric ozone protects life on Earth from damaging UV radiation, amateur scientist Forrest Mims III decided to act.

The scientific community tends to take a relatively narrow approach to these questions, when ozone loss is a very complex issue.

Motivated by the universal lack of ultraviolet measurements, and later through his interaction with NASA, the Texan engineer, inventor, writer and photographer designed the Total Ozone Portable Spectrometer (TOPS). Mims now had the attention, and respect, of professional researchers.

His reputation grew in 1993 when he won a Rolex Award for his international ozone-monitoring network known as SPAN, which equipped observers with TOPS so they could gather atmospheric data anywhere in the world. He was overwhelmed by requests from volunteers in 34 countries. In 1994, Mims developed a microprocessor-controlled ozonometer, dubbed MicroTOPS, followed by the advanced sun photometer and ozone monitor, MicroTOPS II.

Although the network no longer exists, hundreds of MicroTOPS IIs are used by scientists worldwide to measure the ozone layer, total water vapour and haze caused by pollution, especially in remote locations. The many initiatives Mims has subsequently been involved with include developing science projects for NASA’s Langley Research Center and MAKE magazine. He has written prolifically for prestigious scientific journals, including Nature and Science.

  • 6,000 - 9,000

    Current price range in US dollars for the basic MicroTOPS

  • 50+

    Do-it-yourself electronics books written by Mims

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Rolex Awards for Enterprise

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