Saturday, April 10, 2010

Celebrity Saturday: Kurt and Bernard Vonnegut

Many people are familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, lauded author of such classics as Slaughterhouse V and Breakfast of Champions (and the less well-known, but equally fantastic Galapagos).  If you're not much of a literary buff, you may remember Vonnegut from his cameo in Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, where Dangerfield hires Vonnegut to write his term paper about Slaughterhouse V (and then the paper gets a poor grade).

What you may not know is that Kurt's brother, Bernard Vonnegut was a pretty successful scientist.  Having obtained his PhD in Physical Chemistry from M.I.T., Bernard spent many years working for General Electric where he came up with the idea for "seeding" clouds with silver iodide to get them to release rain droplets (or snow flakes, depending on the temp).  This technology has been used ever since the 1940s to help fight forest fires, and more recently, you may remember that it was used to help alleviate the air pollution in Beijing just prior to the Olympics.
At right, an image from Life Magazine, 1948 with the following caption: M.I.T. grad Dr. Bernard Vonnegut, 35, one of the young brains, working on Irving Langmuir's weather research team while making notes in G. E. research laboratory.

In this photo: Bernard Vonnegut

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Oct 01, 1948

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