John Monteith fundamentally changed the way in which physical and biological scientists explore the interactions between living organisms and their environments. Trained in physics and meteorology, he pioneered innovative ways of measuring and analysing exchanges of heat, water vapour and carbon dioxide between leaves, crops, animals and the atmosphere. Building on the work of Howard Penman, with whom he worked for almost two decades, he developed the Penman–Monteith equation that is widely used in planning irrigation and water resource development. Subsequently, as the first Professor of Environmental Physics at the University of Nottingham, he brought together multidisciplinary groups to study the growth of temperate and tropical crops and the heat balance of animals. His Environmental Physics group trained graduates and postdoctoral scientists who have joined research establishments and universities worldwide. The final phase of his long career was spent at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, where he directed teams applying his experimental methods and analyses to benefit crop production in developing countries—a topic that epitomized his desire to have his science make an impact for the good of mankind. In addition to his exceptional ability in research and teaching, John Monteith was an outstanding communicator and leader who made substantial contributions to many national and international organizations.
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