The Founder of MIT (1860) was the well-known American geologist William Barton Rogers, so that earth sciences were represented here from the very beginning.

Over the succeeding years, studies of the solid earth were focused in what came to be called the Department of Geology. Scientific study of the fluid earth (meteorology and physical oceanography) began in the 1930s as a section of meteorology created in the then-Department of Aeronautics by the famous Swedish meteorologist Carl Gustav Rossby. Almost immediately, Rossby established collaborations with the new Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

By 1941, meteorology and physical oceanography had evolved into the first US Department of Meteorology. In the 1950s and 1960s, particularly under the leadership of Henry Houghton, this Department, which eventually changed its name to Meteorology and Physical Oceanography became pre-eminent with the presence of such notable scientists as Profs. Charney, Phillips, Starr, Lorenz, Stommel , and others. In 1969, MIT and WHOI established the Joint PhD Program in Oceanography, which includes physical, chemical and geological/geophysical branches of that field.

The Department of Geology became the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Recognizing the essential unity of the earth sciences, a merger was arranged in 1983 of the two departments into a single Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. We are probably the broadest and deepest of such organizations anywhere in the world. As part of the merger, an internal structure, now known as the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate (PAOC) was created to oversee the academic programs in these areas. PAOC has continued to broaden its interests, which now include aspects of geology, hydrology and planetary problems while maintaining its traditional strengths. Responsibility for MIT's part of the Joint Program with WHOI in the physical and chemical oceanography areas rests with PAOC.

Watch the video below for a brief history of PAOC told from the perspectives of Professors Charney and Lorenz.