1879 - 1958

Planetary climatology

Milutin Milanković was a Serbian civil engineer, mathematician, climatologist, and astronomer.

He studied and did Doctoral Studies in civil engineering in Vienna, Austria, and graduated with excellence in 1904. He did his early inventions in materials (concrete ceilings) which he also patented. During his early research days, he worked as a civil engineer in Vienna until he was offered the chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Belgrade, Serbia, in 1909.

In Belgrade, he then focused his research on our planet’s solar irradiance, with particular interest on the ice age, which remained insufficiently explained at the time. His break-through towards explaining this yet mysterious age was to correctly define the relationship between summer insolation (solar irradiance) and the altitude of snow line, especially in subpolar regions, including the estimation of polar wandering when calculating the planet’s insolation.

His description of the collective effects of changes in the Earth's movements on its climate over thousands and thousands of years are now called 'Milankovitch cycles'. They not only describe climatic occurrences in the geological past of the Earth but also those to come.

NASA named Milanković among the top fifteen minds of all time in the field of earth sciences. Furthermore, a crater on the Moon and a crater on Mars were given his name. The European Geophysical Society awards the Milutin Milanković Medal for outstanding contributions in long-term climate and modelling. And he received several national Orders of Honours.

He is considered the founder of planetary climatology.

Written by: Theresa Burkard.