About the Library

History of Schwerdtfeger Library

The opening of a library at the Space Science and Engineering Center in 1981 represented a joint effort between the Department of Meteorology and the Space Science and Engineering Center. It was officially dedicated the Werner Schwerdtfeger Library on 15 November 1983 upon Schwerdtfeger's retirement from the Department of Meteorology at the UW-Madison.

Professor Heinz Lettau wrote the following memorial to his friend and colleague, Werner Schwerdtfeger, and it is reprinted here with his permission:

In Memory of Werner Schwerdtfeger, 1909-1985

Our lives take their meaning from their interlacing with other lives, and when one life is ended those into which it was woven are also carried into darkness. Werner Schwerdtfeger's and my life were interlaced over a time-span of nearly 55 years.

It is an honor but also my heartfelt desire to pay tribute to the memory of my long-time friend. It was in 1930 when we first met, at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Leipzig, as fellow-graduate students. We soon discovered that we both shared a profound interest in dynamic meteorology. Werner told me once how it happened that he fell in love with the atmospheric sciences: bored with the abstract subject matter of mathematics courses during his junior years at Gottingen University, he was browsing in the library stacks when he came across the 400 page treatise on "General Meteorology" by Hann and Suring. Fascinated by this subject applying mathematics to nature, he decided to immatriculate at the University of Leipzig. There, under the guidance of Professor Ludwig Weickmann, his Ph.D. thesis was a mathematical study of the pulsating outbreaks of polar airmasses during a northern hemisphere winter season.

His private life was not an easy one. Born during the regime of Kaiser Wilhelm his family suffered the bitter experiences of World War I when Werner lost his father, an Army officer. As a high school student he mastered the demanding curriculum of the humanistic gymnasium during the years of the Weimar Republic. When we both, Werner and I, received our Ph.D. diploma at Leipzig in 1931, the nation was in the deepest economic depression; professional academic career positions were at a premium.

Both of us were lucky to find temporary employment at two different governmental institutions, both in the Greater Berlin area. Thus, our professional lives remained interwoven. A joint research proposal to explore atmospheric vertical motions of the eddy scale by way of direct measurements during manned balloon ascents found the support of the venerable Geheimrat Suring. The result was a series of co-authored publications in the prestigious "Meteorologische Zeitschrift".

At the Leipzig Institute, Werner found more than professional companionship; there he met Marianne Noack, his beloved wife. I still cherish the memory of successful balloon flights in 1932 to 1933 with Marianne serving as technical assistant in the gondola while Werner and I were busy reading the instruments for detecting the fine structure of fluctuating vertical winds, all this in the majestic silence high over ground and clouds.

At the 1933 Annual Meeting of the German Meteorological Society in Hamburg, Professor Wilhelm Schmidt from Vienna called us appreciatively the "Austausch-Twins" using the term he had introduced into the meteorological literature to assess effects of the vertical winds that we had measured in our balloon ascents.

Before and during World War II Werner Schwerdtfeger made hundreds of meteorological reconnaissance airplane flights facing unhesitantly the dangers of flying long distances over the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

After 1945, with possibilities of research and teaching in Germany severely limited, he decided to accept an invitation to continue his scientific career in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a consequence of active professional work in the southern hemisphere, Werner became prominently engaged in Antarctic research. Finally, in 1963 he returned to the northern hemisphere accepting a professorship at the Madison campus. Here our lives became enlaced again.

Werner has remained a bibliophile during his lifetime. It is therefore not surprising that beyond the call of duty he took loving care of the Meteorology Department's reading room. From modest beginnings, he prepared the ground for establishment of an official UW-branch library on the third floor of the Space Science and Meteorology Building. Upon his retirement it was appropriately and officially named the "Werner Schwerdtfeger Library".

Now, Werner has left us. His scientific heritage will remain with the University, his colleagues, friends and students. For Marianne, Dietrich, Antje and Wulf only time, slow-moving yet steady, will soften the sadness of his death. Let us devote a minute of silence to his memory.....

Heinz H. Lettau
January 22, 1985

Other sources of information:

Schwerdtfeger, Werner. The last two years of Z-W-G (Part 1). Weather v.41, no.4, April 1986, pp129-133.

Schwerdtfeger, Werner. The last two years of Z-W-G (Part 2). Weather v.41, no.5, May 1986, pp157-161.

Schwerdtfeger, Werner. The last two years of Z-W-G (Part 3). Weather v.41, no.6, June 1986, pp187-191.

Newmann, J. and H. Flohn. Great historical events that were significantly affected by the weather: Part 8, Germany's war on the Soviet Union, 1941-45. II. Some important weather forecasts, 1942-1945. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society v.69, no.7, July 1988, pp730-735.