Professor and atmospheric scientist S. George Philander was born on August 25, 1942 in Calendon, Republic of South Africa. His father was the noted Afrikaans poet and the headmaster of the Belgravia High School in Athlone. Philander received his B.S. degree in applied mathematics and physics from the University of Cape Town in 1962. When apartheid laws were sanctioned in South Africa, his family decided to move to New York City. He went on to attend Harvard University and graduated in 1980 with his Ph.D. degree in applied mathematics.
Following graduation, Philander was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the department of meteorology. He then became a research associate in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Program at Princeton University, and was promoted in 1978 to senior research oceanographer of the program. Philander held the position for eleven years until he was appointed as a full professor of geosciences and director of the program in atmospheric and oceanic studies at Princeton University in 1990. He served as chair of the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University from 1994 to 2001 and was then named the Knox Taylor Professor of Geosciences at Princeton University in 2005. Throughout his career, Philander has served as a consultant to the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and as a visiting professor at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France. His research on oceanic and meteorological changes have resulted in the publication of over one hundred academic papers, nine chapters in books, and three books on such topics as El Niño, the Southern Oscillation, and global warming. In 2007, he finally returned to South Africa and joined the University of Cape Town as a research professor.
Philander was elected as a Fellow into the American Meteorological Society in 1986, the American Geophysical Union in 1991, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. The University of Cape Town bestowed upon Philander an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree in 2007.
S. George Philander was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 8, 2013.