Mr Gove, a key figure in the campaign to leave the EU, stood against Ms May in the battle to become leader of the Conservatives during the fallout from the Brexit result.
The former Education and Justice Secretary has been brought back to the frontline of politics as Ms May attempts to form a minority government following the Conservatives' disastrous performance at the general election.
He replaces Andrea Leadsom at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as she becomes Leader of the House of Commons.
Mr Gove effectively scuppered the chances of fellow Leave campaigner Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister when he announced his own candidacy in the Conservative leadership election last year.
Ms May then left him out in the cold when she sacked him in one of her first acts as leader.
Mr Gove's appointment is likely to cause concern to environmentalists as his voting record reveals he has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change through a reduction in carbon emissions.
In the wake of the Brexit vote, Mr Gove suggested that EU rules governing the building of new homes in environmentally sensitive areas should be scrapped.
In a speech made to a London audience, Mr Gove said: "I am very, very keen – I may be odd in this respect as Conservative MP – on having more homes built in my constituency. It’s a social and economic good. But homes built in my constituency are governed by the Habitats Directive."
He criticised the rationale for such rules and claimed the law "massively increases the cost and regulatory burden for housing development."
In 2016, he voted not to reduce the permitted carbon dioxide emission rate of new homes.
As Education Secretary, Mr Gove attempted to remove climate change from the geography national curriculum but was forced into a climbdown following an intervention from then Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Davy, a Liberal Democrat.
Some green campaigners quickly expressed reservations over Mr Gove's appointment.
Tom Burke, from the think tank e3g, told the BBC: "The environment is something young voters really care about.
"If the Tories really want to reconnect with the youth surge, this is about the worst option they could have chosen."
Mr Gove told Sky News he was "quite surprised" to be asked to join the Cabinet.
"Of course I knew that today was re-shuffle day, but I genuinely didn't expect this role although I am delighted to be part of the government, and delighted to be able to support Theresa."
Ms May has made just a handful of changes in her reshuffle, which was expected to have been more radical had she managed to increase her majority instead of seeing it wiped out.
She is now scrambling to form a "confidence and supply" arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which would see the ten MPs from the Northern Irish party voting with the Conservatives on a case-by-case basis.
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