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The Sciences at the University at Albany, 1845-2006

Atmospheric Sciences Research Center

Atmospheric Sciences Research Center researchers at Yellowstone National Park

The first scientific research center at the University at Albany, and to this day one of the University’s most successful centers, was and is the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. The Center was formed when Dean of the College Oscar Lanford, a former head of the Chemistry Department, gave Vincent Schaefer $50,000 to develop a program in meteorology. Schaefer became first, Director of Research, and subsequently Director of the new Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) which was formally established with New York State funding in February of 1961.

While at General Electric in the 1940s Schaefer had discovered how to seed clouds with dry ice, while a colleague of his, Bernard Vonnegut, had discovered an alternate method of seeding with silver iodide. At ASRC, Schaefer would lead a research center modeled after the G.E. Research Laboratory he had worked in, one where he hired the best scientists in atmospheric sciences and left them free to pursue their own research interests. He also brought together many of the old GE Research Laboratory team including Vonnegut, Raymond Falconer, Duncan Blanchard, as well as hiring many younger scientists. The ASRC focus on studying particulate matter in the atmosphere was fortuitous in the 1960s, as the general public and the scientific community were rapidly becoming aware of the dangers of ozone pollution in cities and the Adirondack Mountains, the dangers of lead in the atmosphere, and the depletion of the upper atmosphere.

Vincent Schaefer, second row, far left in the above picture, is seen at Yellowstone National Park in the 1960s. Schaefer discovered that the winter conditions in Yellowstone Park were ideal for duplicating atmospheric conditions on the ground, and at far less expense than flying airplanes into the atmosphere. During the 1960s and early 1970s, he led winter expeditions of colleagues from across the country to Yellowstone.

Click here to view the finding aid for the papers of Vincent Schaefer.

Exhibit curated by Geoffrey Williams, University Archivist
Research and design assistance by George Asante, History 499 Archival Intern

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Last updated May 30, 2006