Professor Emeritus Doctor Peter SCHWERDTFEGER
Born December 23, 1935 at Gӧttingen, Germany to Hans and Hanna Schwerdtfeger.
Departed this life in Adelaide, Australia on August 20, 2013.
Peter turned up at my door back in the late eighties when MEA (Measurement Engineering Australia) was just me in a back shed in a pair of shorts (a fact that he never let me forget!)
He was the famous Professor of Meteorology at Flinders University, and I was just a young electronics engineer following my dream of building environmental measurement systems of any sort for anyone who needed them, while trying to survive and feed the family.
That I (and MEA) did survive had much to do with Peter's early patronage and the small orders he trickled through that kept the home fires burning.
Peter would often express amazement that a business based on such slim pickings could be built up in Adelaide, and would drop in to 'shoot the breeze' and lambast the Philistines of the world with an eloquence that was spell-binding.
Along the way, he'd recount tales from his PhD of experiments in the Arctic Circle, armed with a .303 rifle against polar bears, and where he got a good grounding in the fundamentals of solar radiation sensors that would later inform much of what I needed to know on the subject.
In retirement Peter would still drop in from time to time, and it was with great sadness that I came to observe the decline in that titanic intellect and the despondency he felt about his career choices. When I pointed out to him that many of Australia’s greatest names in meteorology owed much to his mentorship, he was moved almost to tears.
I’ve often thought of that conversation, and those few moments in the MEA car park while seeing him off, as a chance to re-pay him in some very small way for the years of kindness and support that he gave me personally. MEA is a big company now, with thousands of names in our customer database. But it is those early supporters such as Peter that have had the greatest impact and loom largest in my memory.
I feel as though I have a lost a special friend.