Vincent J. Schaefer (1906–1993)

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Abstract

In 1946, Vincent Schaefer carried out two simple experiments, the results of which echoed around the world in the meteorological research community.

As the afternoon temperatures in the General Electric Research Laboratory at Schenectady, N.Y., inched higher on a hot day in 1946, Schaefer noticed that his cold box (an ordinary home freezer he had lined with black velvet and into which was directed a narrow beam of light) was not as cold as usual, so he placed a block of dry ice in the bottom of the freezer. Within seconds the entire cloud of water droplets in the cold box was turned into millions of tiny, sparkling ice crystals. Serendipitously, Schaefer found the trigger that converted super-cooled droplets into ice crystals.

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