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Mon Apr 30 19:55:58 PDT 2018

Volume XXV, Issue 26


Table of Contents

1. Prof. Karl Rawer, 1913 - 2018


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Prof. Karl Rawer, 1913 - 2018

From: Dieter Bilitza (dbilitza at gmu.edu)

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Prof. Karl Rawer at his home in March, Germany two days before his 105th birthday. He died peaceful during his afternoon nap with the book that he was reading on his lap. Prof. Rawer was one of the pioneers of the exploration of the ionosphere from the ground and from space, and in the understanding of radiowave propagation in the ionospheric medium. He leaves a rich legacy and large body of work in ionospheric and atmospheric physics, including his book “Die Ionosphäre” published in 1952 and translated into many languages. He received many honors and was the Director of the Frauenhofer Institute for Space Research in Freiburg, Germany and the project scientist of the first German-US Aeronomy Satellites, AEROS-A and AEROS-B.

Karl Rawer was born on April 19, 1913 in Neunkirchen, Germany and studied mathematics and physics under Gustav Mie and Gustav Dötsch in Freiburg, and under Arnold Sommerfeld and Jonathan Zenneck in München. In his dissertation in 1939 he used hyperbolic and Epstein functions to solve for the first time the problem of radio wave propagation in a stratified medium, and from there on he was hooked to ionospheric research. During World War II he was charged with developing ionospheric predictions in support of HF communications, working with Johannes Plendl and Walter Dieminger. After the war he was invited to establish an ionospheric prediction service in what was then Germany’s “French Zone”. He developed close ties with his French counterparts and was the first German after the war to be invited to lecture at the Sorbonne University (prof. associé 1958-1960, and prof. d’échange1961-1964). After first working under the auspices of the French Service Prévision lonosphérique de la Marine (SPIM), Rawer in 1956 established the “Ionosphäreninstitut” in Breisach, Germany and served as its director from 1956 to 1969. This institute gained international reputation in the field of ionospheric radio wave propagation and forecasting, and the development of ionosondes in cooperation with research organizations in the USA and France, and joint measuring campaigns in Italy, Greece, Norway, and Africa. Throughout his career Prof. Rawer was a strong proponent of international science cooperation recognizing its potential to build bridges after the terrible war years and to foster peace. The International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957/58 was the perfect opportunity and, representing Germany, he participated in many of the activities. Together with Roy Piggott in the U.K. he published the “Handbook for the Scaling of Ionograms” a precious reference book that is a must at every ionosonde station worldwide. In 1966 Rawer was elected Vice-Chair of Commission G of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) and served as Vice-Chair and then Chair until 1972. At the 2017 URSI GASS in Montreal the first “Karl Rawer Gold Medal” was awarded, a medal in honor of the work and life of Professor Karl Rawer.

A new chapter in Prof. Rawer’s scientific career began with the first successful launch of the newly developed French “Veronique” rocket from Hammaguir (Algeria) in the Sahara Desert in 1954. With scientific payloads developed under his leadership ionospheric conditions were observed in situ along the rocket trajectory showing for the first time the steep increase in electron density in the D-region. Many more launches followed and with his expertise in instrument development and mission management Rawer played a key role in the German involvement in the beginnings of space exploration. When the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) was founded in 1958 for the promotion of scientific research at an international level, Rawer actively participated and in 1964 became the Chairman of the German National Committee of COSPAR. He vigorously exploited the opportunity that COSPAR offered to establish long lasting relationships between scientists from West and East across the cold war borders, but also with researchers in India and in hitherto neglected countries in the Far East and Africa. With a focus on his new area of interest Rawer, in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Society, founded the Institute für Physikalische Weltraumforschung (IPW) in Freiburg and served as its director from 1969 to 1979. Under Rawer’s leadership the IPW became a focal point of space exploration in Germany and was responsible for Germany’s second and third satellites, the AEROnomy Satellites AEROS-A and AEROS-B that were launched in 1972 and 1974, respectively. The EUV spectrometer, impedance probe, and retarding potential analyzer for these missions were developed and tested in-house.  Together with the US Atmosphere Explorer C, D, E satellites, the AEROS-A and -B satellites were one of the first to provide a global view of the ionosphere and upper atmosphere and led to a much improved understanding of the processes that shape this region of geospace.    

Data from the AEROS satellites together with measurements from the worldwide network of ionosondes were the foundation for the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI), a project that Prof. Rawer initiated under the auspices of COSPAR and URSI. He chaired the IRI Working Group from 1968 to 1976 and continued his active involvement into the mid-1990s. Under his guidance and leadership, the IRI project took off on a path that has led it to become the recognized international standard for the ionosphere that it is today. As participants of the bi-annual IRI Workshops we will always remember Rawer’s scientific rigor and endurance that kept us on our seats and engaged in spirited discussions till late in the day, and his joy and happiness during the social events with a good glass of wine and dancing late into the evening. The Final Discussion session at the end of the Workshop was his trademark with setting out goals for improvements of the model and finding volunteers to accomplish these tasks.

Since 1955, Prof. Rawer had been affiliated with the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität of Freiburg, lecturing and advising graduate and doctoral students. Even when extremely busy with his many national and international science projects, he always had an open door and ear for his students and mentored their careers long past their final exams. His research activities in ionospheric modeling continued after his retirement with support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and ESA’s European Satellite Operations Center (ESOC). In 1993 he published the book “Wave Propagation in the Ionosphere”. 

Rawer’s greatest love and pride (and maybe one of the secrets of his longevity) was his large family with two sons, four daughters, 19 grandchildren, and 31 great-grandchildren. 

On the occasion of Prof. Rawer’s 100th birthday, Bodo Reinisch had delivered a laudation at the German URSI National Committee meeting on his life and accomplishments: Adv. Radio Sci., 12, 221-223, 2014, www.adv-radio-sci.net/12/221/2014/.

Bodo Reinisch
Lowell Digisonde International
bodo.reinisch at digisonde.com

Dieter Bilitza
George Mason University
dbilitza at gmu.edu


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