July 4: The Birthday of Vincent Schaefer


schaefer older

Today is the birthday of atmospheric scientist Vincent Schaefer, born in 1906. As a scientist at General Electric in Schenectady, New York, he invented cloud seeding, a method of seeding super-cooled clouds with dry ice. He discovered the concept quite by accident in a lab in 1946. On November 13 of that year, he field-tested this technique by going up in a small airplane and scattering crushed dry ice into super-cooled clouds. Low and behold, it began to snow. Cloud seeding could be used to make it rain, too, but it turned out to be impractical as you can’t aim a cloud and force it to rain anywhere you want. Still, some airports do use the technique today to dissipate ice fog that occurs in winter.

Schaefer, who was self-educated and never attended college, accomplished many other things, too, including: holding 14 patents; helping to found and later serving as the director of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York at Albany; co-writing the Peterson A Field Guide to the Atmosphere; establishing the Natural Sciences Institute (NSI), a summer program for gifted high-school students who yearned to become scientists (one of the NSI campuses was at the Huyck Preserve); and fighting for the preservation of natural areas, including the Huyck Preserve where he served on the board of directors for many years.

You can read more about this remarkable man’s life at my blog post: https://lscnews.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/vincent-j-schaefer-1906-1993/

About L. Stephenson Carter

L. Stephenson Carter is a science writer/editor and was also on the board of directors of the E.N. Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville, NY.
This entry was posted in Biological Research, historic research, Huyck Preserve, Natural History, researchers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to July 4: The Birthday of Vincent Schaefer

  1. George Frangos says:

    Dear Laura,

    Thanks for your wonderful memorial for Vince Schaefer, a world renowned scientist who I now realize actually served for many years on our Board of Directors and was responsible for our participation in the National Sciences Institute, a program we are trying to reestablish.

    When I began teaching at SUNY Albany in 1974 he was a powerful presence singly responsible for the campus’ national reputation. We should celebrate his history with the Preserve more than we do. I know you share your blog with the BOD and Newsletter, would it make sense to email it directly to our membership and beyond?

    Best wishes,



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