Schaefer, Vincent Joseph

▪ 1994

      U.S. chemist (b. July 4, 1906, Schenectady, N.Y.—d. July 25, 1993, Schenectady), was conducting atmospheric research at the General Electric (GE) Research Laboratory in Schenectady when in 1946 he undertook the first systematic series of experiments to investigate the physics of precipitation. Schaefer, who struck upon a method to create a snowstorm in the laboratory, proved that he could accomplish the same feat with supercooled clouds in the free atmosphere. From an aircraft over Massachusetts, he seeded clouds with pellets of dry ice (solidified carbon dioxide) and successfully produced snow. His initiative launched the science of experimental meteorology and weather control. Schaefer dropped out of school at the age of 16 but later graduated (1928) from the Davey Institute of Tree Surgery. After joining GE he became the protégé of Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir. The two worked on studies of surface chemistry (1931-40) before undertaking defense work during World War II. They invented several useful devices to aid the military, notably gas mask filters, submarine detectors, and a machine for making smoke clouds to conceal aircraft maneuvers. After leaving GE in 1954, he served as research director of the Munitalp Foundation until 1958, when he resigned to devote his time to research and education. Schaefer joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Albany in 1959, and the following year he became a founder of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, which he directed from 1966 to 1976. Schaefer was the author of some 300 scientific papers and books and in 1976 received a special citation from the American Meteorological Society.

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▪ American chemist and meteorologist
born July 4, 1906, Schenectady, N.Y., U.S.
died July 25, 1993, Schenectady

      American research chemist and meteorologist, who in 1946 carried out the first systematic series of experiments to investigate the physics of precipitation. From an aircraft over Massachusetts he seeded clouds (cloud seeding) with pellets of Dry Ice (solid carbon dioxide) and succeeded in producing snow, initiating the science of experimental meteorology and weather control.

      Schaefer attended classes at Union College in New York and graduated in 1928 from the Davey Institute of Tree Surgery. From 1933 to 1954 he worked in research at General Electric Laboratories, where his efforts during the war were directed specifically toward aircraft icing. Studies showed that when sufficient numbers of ice particles were present in clouds to eliminate the hazardous supercooled water conditions, ice ceased to form on airplane bodies. Using Dry Ice, Schaefer discovered by chance how to produce this condition artificially.

      In 1959 Schaefer joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Albany, and was professor of atmospheric science there from 1964 to 1976. He was appointed fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he received an award in 1957 and a special citation in 1976 from the American Meteorological Society.

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Universalium. 2010.

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