November 25, 1998
Vol. 18 No. 5

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    Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita

    The research methods that distinguished the late Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita’s career as a University meteorologist may have been born in the atomic ashes of ground zero at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, said Roger Wakimoto (Ph.D. ’81), professor and chairman of the Atmospheric Sciences Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Fujita, who devised the internationally accepted standard for measuring tornado severity and discovered microbursts and their link to commercial airline crashes, died Nov. 19 at his Chicago home.

    Fujita’s colleagues say he had an uncanny ability to figure out the mysterious workings of thunderstorms, tornadoes and microbursts.

    “There was an insight he had, this gut feeling. He often had ideas way before the rest of us could even imagine them,” said Jim Wilson, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Fujita’s instinctive understanding of atmospheric phenomena is “just one of those things you can’t replace.”

    In the 1950s, Fujita began conducting pioneering research in the field of mesometeorology, the study of middle-sized, atmospheric phenomena such as hurricanes and tornadoes. “After devising the Fujita Tornado Scale with his wife, Sumiko, in 1971, he became known as ‘Mr. Tornado,’” said James Partacz, Research Meteorologist at Chicago.

    “His investigation of the Eastern Airlines Flight 66 aircraft accident in 1975 at New York’s JFK Airport led him to discover the killer winds he called microbursts,” Partacz said. “This important discovery helped to prevent microburst accidents that previously had killed more than 500 airline passengers at major U.S. airports.”

    The starburst patterns of uprooted trees found in forests following tornadoes led Fujita to his theory of microburst winds. He had seen similar patterns years before –when he had visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki just weeks after the atomic bombs were dropped to observe shock-wave effects on trees and structures in the devastated areas.

    Many meteorologists found it difficult to believe in the concept of a microburst, a small-sized downdraft that could induce an outburst of 150-mile-an-hour winds on or near the ground. But Fujita’s data eventually led to the widespread acceptance of the microburst concept and to the installation of Doppler radar at airports to improve aviation safety.

    Fujita came to Chicago in 1953 as a Research Associate in the Meteorology Department and served as Director of the Mesometeorology Research Project from 1956 to 1962.

    He became Associate Professor in Geophysical Sciences in 1962 and Professor in 1965. Fujita directed the Satellite and Mesometeorology Research Project from 1964 to 1987 and the Wind Research Laboratory from 1988 until his death. In 1989, the University named Fujita the Charles Merriam Distinguished Service Professor.

    A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, at the Lake View Funeral Home, 1458 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. For information, call (773) 472-6300.

    Frank William Newell

    Frank William Newell, M.D., 82, the James and Anna Raymond Professor Emeritus and former Chairman of Ophthalmology at Chicago, died at his Chicago home Wednesday, Nov. 18. The cause of death was a brain tumor.

    The late Dr. Newell was a founder of several ophthalmologic organizations and served as president or chairman of many of these organizations, including: Academica Ophthalmologica Internationalis, president 1980-84; the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, president 1975; the American Board of Ophthalmology, chairman 1967-69; the American Medical Association’s Section on Ophthalmology, chairman 1964-65; and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology, founder as well as president and chairman of the board 1967-68.

    “Frank Newell was among the most famous, the most feared and the most fondly remembered ophthalmologists of his generation,” said Terry Ernest, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University, who was trained by Newell.

    “As a physician and as a teacher, Frank did not tolerate any deviation from the highest standards, but as a lifelong mentor, colleague and counselor he was always helpful, congenial and wise.”

    Despite his professional accomplishments and clinical skills, Newell considered himself primarily a teacher and always referred to his office and clinic at the University as “school.”

    He wrote or edited more than a dozen textbooks, and authored more than 30 book chapters and nearly 200 research and review articles. Before his death, he was working on a history of ophthalmology.

    Born Jan. 14, 1916, in St. Paul, Minn., Newell earned his B.S. (1938) and M.D. (1940) degrees from Loyola University in Chicago and his M.S. in ophthalmology (1942) from the University of Minnesota. He completed his residency while in the United States Army, attaining the rank of major and serving as chief of ophthalmology at the 108th General Hospital in Paris.

    Newell came to Chicago in 1953 as Chief of the Ophthalmology Department, which was then part of the Department of Surgery. He became the first Chairman of Ophthalmology when it was made a separate department in 1970 and continued to lead the department until 1981. He was named the James and Anna Raymond Professor Emeritus five years later, in 1986.