Vincent J. Schaefer; Inventor of Cloud-Seeding
Vincent J. Schaefer, 87, chemist who invented cloud-seeding to produce rain. Dropping out of high school to support his family, Schaefer began working for General Electric at 15 and eventually won a transfer from the machine shop to the research laboratory. Mentored by chemists there, he helped devise such World War II inventions as gas-mask filters, submarine detectors and a smoke machine for concealing military maneuvers. In 1946, he captured world attention during his research on why icy wings interfere with airplane radio signals when he shoved dry ice into a refrigerator and observed ice crystals suddenly forming. Duplicating the effect from an airplane over a Massachusetts mountain, using six pounds of dry ice dumped into clouds, he showed that such “seeding” could produce artificial snow or rain. With Bernard Vonnegut, Schaefer later developed the silver iodide since used to seed clouds. Schaefer went on to found and direct the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York at Albany. On Sunday in Schenectady, N.Y.