Fred Singer


Fred Singer : biography

September 27, 1924 –

, The Fifth Estate, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, November 15, 2006, updated October 24, 2007, 16:01–16:35 mins. Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010 Singer, S. Fred. "The Revelle-Gore Story: Attempted Political Suppression of Science" in Michael Gough (ed.) Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking. Hoover Press, 2003.

Early life and education

Singer was born in Vienna, Austria, where his father was a jeweler and his mother a homemaker. When the Nazis invaded, the family fled, Singer leaving on a children’s transport train with other Jewish children. He ended up in England, where he lived in Northumberland, working for a time as a teenage optician. Several years later he emigrated to Ohio and became an American citizen in 1944.Stevens, William Kenneth. The Change in the Weather. Delta 2001, p. 245. Some of the details given by Scheuering and Stevens of Singer’s flight from Vienna and the timing of it appear inconsistent. He received a B.E.E. in electrical engineering from Ohio State University in 1943, and an A.M. in physics from Princeton in 1944. He taught physics at Princeton while he worked on his masters and his doctorate, obtaining his Ph.D. there in 1948. His doctoral thesis was titled, "The density spectrum and latitude dependence of extensive cosmic ray air showers." His supervisor was John Archibald Wheeler, and his thesis committee included J. Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr., Science & Environmental Policy Project, accessed May 13, 2010; Smithsonian Institution Research Information Service. , accessed May 15, 2010.

  • For material about his supervisor and thesis committee, see Misner, Charles W. , University of Maryland, October 3, 2006, accessed May 15, 2010.
  • Also see Singer, S. Fred. , Hoover Digest, 2002, No. 1, accessed May 15, 2010.
  • For his teaching while he obtained his degrees, and the title of his PhD thesis, see .


1950: United States Navy

After his masters, Singer joined the Armed Forces, working for the United States Navy on mine warfare and countermeasures from 1944 until 1946. While with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory he developed an arithmetic element for an electronic digital calculator that he called an "electronic brain." He was discharged in 1946 and joined the Upper Atmosphere Rocket Program at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, working there until 1950. He focused on ozone, cosmic rays, and the ionosphere, all measured using balloons and rockets launched from White Sands, New Mexico, or from ships out at sea. Rachel White Scheuering writes that for one mission to launch a rocket, he sailed with a naval operation to the Arctic, and also conducted rocket launching from ships at the equator.

From 1950 to 1953, he was attached to the U.S. Embassy in London as a scientific liaison officer with the Office of Naval Research, where he studied research programs in Europe into cosmic radiation and nuclear physics.Current biography yearbook, Volume 10, H. W. Wilson Company, 1956; , Science & Environmental Policy Project, accessed May 15, 2010. While there, he was one of eight delegates with a background in guided weapons projects to address the Fourth International Congress of Astronautics in Zurich in August 1953, at a time when, as The New York Times reported, most scientists saw space flight as thinly disguised science fiction.Hillaby, John. , The New York Times, August 3, 1953.

1951: Design of early satellites

Singer was one of the first scientists to urge the launching of earth satellites for scientific observation during the 1950s. In 1951 or 1952 he proposed the MOUSE ("Minimal Orbital Unmanned Satellite, Earth"), a satellite that would contain Geiger counters for measuring cosmic rays, photo cells for scanning the Earth, telemetry electronics for sending data back to Earth, a magnetic data storage device, and rudimentary solar energy cells. Although MOUSE never flew, the Baltimore News Post reported in 1957 that had Singer’s arguments about the need for satellites been heeded, the U.S. could have beaten Russia by launching the first earth satellite., Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, accessed May 15, 2010; for a diagram of the MOUSE and Baltimore News Post reference, see , Corbis Images, accessed May 16, 2010. He also proposed (along with R. C. Wentworth) that satellite measurement of ultraviolet backscatter could be used as a method to measure atmospheric ozone profiles.S. F. Singer and R. C. Wentworth, "A method for the determination of the vertical ozone distribution from a satellite," J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 62, pp. 299-308, 1957. This technique was later used on early weather satellites.Christos S. Zerefos, Ivar S. A. Isaksen, and Ioannis Ziomas, Chemistry and Radiation Changes in the Ozone Layer, Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Study Institute, Kolympara Crete, NATO Science Series, 1999, ISBN-0-7923-6513-5; p. 309.