On behalf of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows, I am honoured to pay tribute to Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, the Associations founding President.
Peter had a profound appreciation of the opportunity provided to him (and other Fellows) through the award of an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship to undertake research in Germany. For at least 10 years prior to the formation of the Australian Association, Peter was a strong advocate for the creation of a regional structure to enable Australian Fellows to further the spirit of Alexander von Humboldt. Through his subsequent leadership role in founding the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows and his dedication to its preservation and development, he repaid his debt to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation handsomely. Peter devoted very considerable time and enviable skill to furthering the interests of the Australian Association, including to computerising details of members of the Association. He served as its President from 1983-2009. Without his untiring efforts the Association would not have an unbroken 20 year existence and a history of successful biennial conferences, annual celebrations of Alexander von Humboldts birthday across major Australian centres and a warm relationship with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn. In a message of condolence, the latter paid tribute to Peter as a distinguished and passionate researcher and a committed, enthusiastic Humboldtian.
Peter had a long and distinguished career in Australian science where his achievements include:
foundation Professor of Meteorology at Flinders University, the first such Chair in Australia;
member of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Advisory Board;
member of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee;
co-founder of Airborne Research Australia;
founding Director of the Flinders Institute for Atmospheric and Marine Sciences; and
a record of research and publication.
Peter was awarded the Max Planck Research Prize in 1991 and an Australian Centenary Medal in 2002. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1988.
One of his colleagues, Andrew Skinner, Measurement Engineering Australia Director, paid tribute him as follows; Many of Australias greatest names in meteorology owed much to his mentorship.
In recognition of his services to the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows, Peter received the Associations Distinguished Fellow award, which recognises members who have excelled in their professional field and provided service to the organisation. As a further tribute to Peter, the Association designated its biennial award recognising the academic or professional achievement of early career Association members, the Peter Schwerdtfeger Award.
The members of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows were greatly saddened to hear of Peter’s death – we have him in such fond memory and will always be grateful to him for all he did to establish and lead the Association. His death represents the end of an era for the Association. The members express their sincere sympathy to Peters wife Arija, brother Roland, son Karl, daughter India and their families. In particular, Professor Robert Robson, Peters successor as President, who is in Europe, asked that his condolences be passed on to Arija and family. He said, Peter was a very dear friend, and inspiring colleague, who enriched the lives of so many.
The Secretary-General of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Dr Enno Aufderheide paid tribute to Peter as follows:
We have learned with considerable sadness that Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger has passed away. Professor Schwerdtfeger will always be remembered as a dedicated Humboldt Fellow and Max Planck Research Awardee. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is very grateful for his personal efforts to establish the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows. Thanks to his outstanding commitment, the Association was able to grow quickly and become an important partner within the international Humboldt Network. On behalf of all staff of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, I express my deepest sympathy to his wife, Arija Schwerdtfeger, his family and friends.
At the Associations 2013 biennial conference in conjunction with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundations international colloquium next month, we will hold a minutes silence to pay tribute to Peter, the soul of our Association in its founding years.
Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM
President, Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows
10 September 2013