David Atlas received the IEEE Dennis J. Picard Medal in 2004 for "exceptionally outstanding leadership and significant individual technical contributions to the application of radar for the observation of weather and other atmospheric phenomena.” He is regarded as a trailblazer of radar meteorology.
Atlas was born on May 25, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. After attending City College of New York he served in the US Army Air Corps during World War II. He worked on the development of radars during his military service. Atlas remained in the military after World War II ended as a member of the Air Force. He stayed in the Air Force for 18 years, and during that time, worked at the Cambridge Research Laboratories as the head of the weather radars research team. It was also during this time that he worked on his master's and doctoral degrees. His research centered primarily on the Doppler Effect and its use in wind measurement.
In 1966, Atlas joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as a professor of meteorology. He stayed in this position until 1972, when he joined the atmospheric technologies division at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as the director. He remained at NCAR until 1976. One notable achievement during his time there was his team's contribution to the development of NEXRAD, a US Doppler weather radar network. After leaving NCAR, Atlas joined the Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences at NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1977. He retired officially in 1984, but he continued to be actively engaged in radar meteorology.
Atlas is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Society, the Royal Meteorological Society (RMS), the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He has also received several awards including the RMS Gold Symons Memorial award (1989) and the AMS Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal (1996). In addition to his numerous awards, Atlas holds 22 patents and has authored over 260 papers.