Willie Soon bigraphy, stories - American astronomer

Willie Soon : biography

1966 -

Willie Wei-Hock Soon (born 1966) is an astrophysicist and geoscientist at the Solar and Stellar Physics (SSP) Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is also a receiving editor for the journal New Astronomy. Soon has testified before Congress on the issue of climate change, and is known for his views that most global warming is caused by solar variation.

In addition to writing a range of technical papers on astrophysics and the physics of climate change, Soon co-authored The Maunder Minimum and the Variable Sun–Earth Connection with Steven H. Yaskell (2004). The book treats historical and proxy records of climate change coinciding with the Maunder Minimum.


After completing his PhD and upon the advice of his thesis advisor, Soon did post doctoral research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and has been doing research in astrophysics and earth science there since 1991. He has also been an astronomer at the Mount Wilson Observatory, a senior scientist at the George C. Marshall Institute, the chief science adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute, and an Adjunct Professor of the Faculty of Science and Environmental Studies of the University of Putra, Malaysia. In 2004 Soon was awarded the "Petr Beckmann Award for outstanding contributions to the defense of scientific truth" by Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.

2003: Climate Research controversy

In 2003, Willie Soon was first author on a review paper in the journal Climate Research, with Sallie Baliunas as co-author. This paper concluded that "the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium."

Shortly thereafter, 13 scientists published a rebuttal to the paper. There were three main objections: 1. Soon and Baliunas used data reflective of changes in moisture, rather than temperature; 2. they failed to distinguish between regional and hemispheric mean temperature anomalies; and 3. they reconstructed past temperatures from proxy evidence not capable of resolving decadal trends. Soon, Baliunas and David Legates published a response to these claims.

After disagreement with the publisher and other members of the editorial board, Hans Von Storch, Clare Goodess, and 2 more members of the journal's 10 member editorial board, resigned in protest against what they felt was a failure of the peer review process on the part of the journal. Otto Kinne, managing director of the journal's parent company, stated that "CR [Climate Research] should have been more careful and insisted on solid evidence and cautious formulations before publication" and that "CR should have requested appropriate revisions of the manuscript prior to publication."

Soon and Baliunas have also been criticised because their research budget was funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute.

2011: Funding controversy

In 2011, it was revealed that Soon received over $1,000,000 from petroleum and coal interests since 2001. Documents obtained by Greenpeace under the US Freedom of Information Act show that the Charles G. Koch Foundation gave Soon two grants totaling $175,000 in 2005/6 and again in 2010. Multiple grants from the American Petroleum Institute between 2001 and 2007 totalled $274,000, and grants from Exxon Mobil totalled $335,000 between 2005 and 2010. Other coal and oil industry sources which funded him include the Mobil Foundation, the Texaco Foundation and the Electric Power Research Institute. Soon has stated unequivocally that he has "never been motivated by financial reward in any of my scientific research." and "would have accepted money from Greenpeace if they had offered it to do my research."

Early life and education

Willie Soon was born in Kangar, Malaysia in 1966. He attended Khoon Aik Primary School in Kangar, Perlis, then Sekolah Menengah Syed Sirajudin Secondary School in Jejawi, Perlis and Sekolah Menengah Dato Sheikh Ahmad Secondary School in Arau, Perlis. To further his education he emigrated to the United States in 1980 and attended the University of Southern California, receiving a B.Sc. in 1985, followed by a M.Sc. in 1987 and then a PhD [with distinction] in 1991. His doctoral thesis was titled, Non-equilibrium kinetics in high-temperature gases. He received the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society Graduate Scholastic Award in 1989 and the Rockwell Dennis Hunt Scholastic Award from the University of Southern California in 1991.

Selected publications



Peer-Reviewed Papers

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine