Loewe, Fritz Philipp

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LOEWE, FRITZ PHILIPP (1895–1974) meteorologist. Loewe was born in Berlin and studied law in Grenoble (1913) before World War i service in the German army for which he was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class. After the war he studied physics and geography and became fascinated by flight, meteorology, and mountaineering. He gained his Ph.D. in geography (1923) while working as a scientific assistant at the Potsdam Meteorological Observatory (1922–25). As first head of the Research Flight of the Prussian Meteorological Service based at the Lindenberg Observatory near Berlin (1925–29), he made some 500 flights to heights of 6,000 meters without supplementary oxygen for meteorological research. During this period he took part in the Meteor expedition to the Atlantic Ocean (1925) and studied cosmic radiation in the Swiss Alps. Loewe joined Alfred Wegener's first expedition to Greenland (1929) and the later expedition (1930–31) to "Eismitte" on the center of the Greenland icecap, the first party to spend the winter in this region. Loewe was one of the first scientists to measure the thickness of the ice using seismic waves created by explosions. However, his toes had to be amputated because of frostbite, and Wegener perished on the return journey. Loewe returned to Germany to recuperate but was interned by the Nazis in a concentration camp before he was allowed to leave for England. He joined the staff of the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge as a research guest in polar meteorology (1934–37). Loewe was appointed reader at the University of Melbourne where he established and directed Australia's first meteorological department (1937–59), founded because of widespread concerns about aeronautical safety. He joined the French Antarctic expedition of Commandant Charcot to Port-Martin in Adélie Land (1951–52), where their hut was destroyed by fire during the winter. Loewe never retired and continued his research and teaching after he ceased to head the department in 1959. He regularly visited the Institute of Polar Studies (now the Byrd Polar Research Institute) in Columbus, Ohio, as Professorial Research Fellow. On behalf of unesco he set up a meteorology training school in Pakistan, where he also carried out Himalayan glaciology surveys. He published some 150 scientific papers in his field but the conservatism of the physics professors in Melbourne prevented Loewe from becoming a professor. He was a popular and distinguished teacher who trained the first generation of Australian meteorologists when weather forecasting became crucial for military purposes in World War ii. In Australia he raised material and political support for Jewish victims of the Nazis. He died in Melbourne while still at work.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]