Fritz Loewe

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Fritz Loewe in the Eismitte station

Fritz Philipp Loewe (born March 11, 1895 in Schöneberg , Teltow district , now part of Berlin ; †  March 27, 1974 in Heidelberg , Victoria , Australia ) was a German meteorologist , glaciologist and polar researcher . After emigrating from Germany, he founded the first meteorological institute in Australia at the University of Melbourne in 1939 .


Loewe was the son of District Court Councilor Eugen Loewe (1855-1925) and his wife Hedwig Loewe, née Makower, (1869-1956). A grandfather was the lawyer Hermann Makower . From 1908 to 1913 he attended the Joachimsthal High School in Berlin. During the First World War , Loewe served for four years as an artillery operator on both the eastern and western fronts and was decorated with the Iron Cross, 1st class. He did not continue his law studies at the University of Grenoble before the war after the war. Instead, he studied physics, geography and meteorology in Berlin and obtained his doctorate in 1924 with the dissertation “The geographical distribution of precipitation in Africa” . From 1923 he was Carl Dorno's assistant at the Physical-Meteorological Observatory in Davos , which was affiliated with the Institute for High Mountain Physiology and Tuberculosis Research . In 1924 he moved to the Meteorological-Magnetic Observatory in Potsdam and in 1925 to the Prussian Aeronautical Observatory in Lindenberg , where he replaced Kurt Wegener as head of the scientific air station. There, and later also briefly in Iran , he carried out meteorological observations from the aircraft. He actually wanted to become a pilot too, but due to his ametropia he was only left with the task of reading the instruments on the back seat of the aircraft and recording the readings. In addition, he measured the cosmic radiation on the Jungfraujoch and examined the heat balance of the Aletsch Glacier . On a trip with the research vessel Meteor , he took part in the first direct measurements of deep ocean currents in the Atlantic .

In 1925 he met Else Koestler, a geography student from the Sauerland , whom he married two years later.

In 1929 he took part in Alfred Wegener's preparatory expedition to Greenland with Johannes Georgi and Ernst Sorge . The aim of this was to find a suitable ascent point to the inland ice for the planned main expedition. Loewe got to know large parts of West Greenland and the most important glaciers and became familiar with dog sledding on snow and ice. Together with concern, he carried out the first seismic measurements to determine the ice thickness.

Ice center (Greenland)
Ice center
Ice center
Location of the ice center station in Greenland

During the main expedition from 1930-1931, Loewe's main field of work was glaciology. He mounted the levels in the accumulation and ablation area , which were used to measure the changes in snow depth. In 1930 the weather caused great logistical problems for the expedition to supply the Eismitte station . After leading the second transport to Eismitte in August, Loewe accompanied Wegener on the fourth and last transport trip before wintering. This started on September 21st to supply Eismitte with urgently needed petroleum and food. Because of the early onset of snow storms this year, the transport had to be abandoned, and the goal was only to relieve Georgi and Sorge for the wintering. Wegener, Loewe and the Greenlander Rasmus Villumsen (1909–1930) reached mid-ice on October 30th, using up all reserves. Loewe's toes were frozen to death on the last few days of the trip. These were amputated by Georgi, and Loewe had to stay in the sleeping bag in the station's firn cave for six months . Wegener and Villumsen started their return journey on November 1st, which they did not survive. Georgi and Sorge wintered with Loewe in the middle of the ice and carried out meteorological and glaciological measurements. On May 7th, a propeller sledge reached Eismitte for the first time , which brought Loewe to the west station in just two days. He traveled on to Kamarujuk to organize the logistics from there until the arrival of the new expedition leader Kurt Wegener.

In 1932 Fritz Loewe was together with Ernst Sorge scientific advisor to the Universal-Dr.-Fanck-Greenland expedition, which had the aim of shooting for the film SOS Eisberg . This company had to be declared a scientific expedition in order to receive the permit for a stay in Greenland.

As a Jew, Loewe lost his job at the Aeronautical Observatory in February 1934. After he was denounced by Sorge and spent the month of August in custody, he emigrated to England with his wife and their young daughters Ruth (1933–2002) and Susanne (* 1934). The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) initially only granted him a one-year scholarship, but extended it after the deadline. Loewe also got the opportunity to give lectures on climatology at Cambridge University . During this time he worked on the results of the Wegener expedition and began his first studies on Antarctica .

In 1937 Loewe and his family moved to Australia. The co-founder of SPRI and Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Sir Raymond Priestley , had invited him. The university offered Loewe the opportunity to work as a university professor and from 1939 to set up the first university meteorological institute in Australia, which he was to head for more than twenty years. In his early days in Australia, he dealt with coastal fog , dust storms and the conditions in the free atmosphere.

HMAS Wyatt Earp on December 19, 1947

From 1947 he turned back to Antarctic issues. He took part in the failed voyage of the HMAS Wyatt Earp , which had the goal of finding a suitable position for an Australian permanent station on the Antarctic mainland. Despite several attempts, the coast could not be reached because of the thick pack ice . In 1950 he participated in the construction of the French station Port Martin in Adélieland and in the following year in the Expéditions Polaires Françaises . He was the first German who had wintered in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. He evaluated measurements of this expedition for the treatment of the Antarctic energy and mass balance.

In 1958, at the request of UNESCO , Loewe helped set up a meteorological training institute in Karachi , Pakistan . On that occasion he investigated the retreat of some of the glaciers of the Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas . After his retirement in 1960, he worked from 1961 to 1973 as a visiting professor at the Polar Institute at Ohio State University in Columbus , USA. In the winter semester of 1965/66 he gave guest lectures at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster .

Loewe remained scientifically active into old age. In 1967 he visited Greenland for the last time and was able to notice a sharp decline in the inland ice since 1931 at Wegener's former western station.

Although Loewe dealt with many questions of general meteorology, he was mainly concerned as a glaciologist with the mass budget of the great inland ice cap. In the course of his life he published about 200 publications. In recognition of his scientific achievements, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Ohio State University and the Karl Weyprecht Medal of the German Society for Polar Research .

Fritz Loewe suffered a heart attack on March 27, 1974 on the way home from the institute and died a little later in the hospital.

The East Antarctic Loewe massif in the eastern part of the Aramis Range and the Mount Loewe belonging to it are named after Fritz Loewe . He is also the namesake for the Fritz Loewe Plateau in Adélieland and Loewe Island west of the Antarctic Peninsula .

Fonts (selection)

  • Else Wegener and Fritz Loewe: Alfred Wegener's last trip to Greenland. The experiences of the German Greenland expedition in 1930/1931 described by his traveling companions and according to the researcher's diaries . Brockhaus, Leipzig 1932
  • Fritz Loewe: The German Greenland Expedition Alfred Wegener . In: Meeting reports of the Society of Friends of Nature Research May 9, 1933, pp. 201–226
  • Fritz Loewe: Contributions to the knowledge of the Antarctic . In: Erdkunde 8, 1954, pp. 1-15
  • Fritz Loewe: Notes on global radiation in Australia . In: Austr. Met. Mag. 15, 1956, pp. 31-41
  • Fritz Loewe: The Greenland Ice Sheet according to new findings . In: Erdkunde 18, 1964, pp. 189-202
  • Fritz Loewe: Polar dry deserts . In: Bonner Met. Abhdl. 17, 1974, pp. 195-206


  • Mark Richmond: Loewe, Fritz Philipp (1895–1974) . In: Douglas Pike (Ed.): Australian Dictionary of Biography . Melbourne University Press, Carlton (Victoria) 1966–2012 (English).
  • Karl Keil:  Loewe, Fritz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 15, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-428-00196-6 , p. 82 ( digitized version ).
  • Peter Schwerdtfeger: Fritz Loewe 1895–1974 (PDF; 2.54 MB). In: Journal of Glaciology . Volume 14, No. 70, 1975, pp. 191-193 (English).
  • Ernst Sorge: By plane, folding boat and film camera in the ice fjords of Greenland. A report on the Universal Dr. Fanck Greenland Expedition . Drei Masken Verlag, Berlin 1933.
  • Johannes Georgi: Buried in the ice. Experiences at the ice center station of Alfred Wegener's last Greenland expedition . Publishing house of the Blodig Alpine Calendar Müller, Munich 1933.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vale Fritz Loewe , University of Melbourne, as of November 18, 2008
  2. ^ The German Greenland Expedition 1930/31 ( Memento from March 15, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  3. ^ Herrmann A. Hahne: Dr. Ernst Sorge (PDF; 201 kB). In: Polarforschung 16, 1946, pp. 120-121
  4. Cornelia Lüdecke: German polar research since the turn of the century and the influence of Erich von Drygalski (PDF; 11.0 MB). Reports on Polar Research No. 158, Bremerhaven 1995, p. 232
  5. Dr. Ruth Loewe . In: Cassirer and Cohen: Histories, relatives and descendants , as of September 7, 2019
  6. Jutta Voss: Johannes Georgi and Fritz Loewe. Two polar explorers' fates after “middle of the ice”. From their correspondence 1929–1971 and the collected catalogs of publications by J. Georgi and F. Loewe (PDF; 1.5 MB). In: Polarforschung 62, 1992, pp 151-161
  7. ^ Fritz Loewe: The course of the Australian Antarctic Expedition 1947-48 (PDF; 175 kB). In: Polarforschung 18, 1948, p. 32
  8. ^ Karl Weiken : Fritz Loewe (PDF; 427 kB). In: Polarforschung 44, 1974, pp. 93-95
  9. Loewe Massif in the Geographic Names Information System of the United States Geological Survey (English)
  10. Mount Loewe in the Geographic Names Information System of the United States Geological Survey (English)