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Joseph Maria Pernter

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Scientist, b. at Neumark, Tyrol, 15 March, 1848; d. at Arco, 20 Dec., 1908. He entered the Society of Jesus after graduation from the Gymnasia at Bozen and Meran. For a time he acted as professor of physics at Kalocsa and Kalksburg. In 1877 he was obliged to leave the order, on account of an ailment in his head. He then studied physics at the University of Vienna and received the doctor's degree. After entering the Central Institute as volunteer in October, 1878, Pernter became assistant in 1880, and adjunct in 1884; in 1885 he also began to act as a privatdozent at the university. In 1890 he was called to the University of Innsbruck in the capacity of extraordinary professor, and in 1893 was appointed ordinary professor of cosmic physics. At Innsbruck he began a number of works including papers on the conditions of wind, humidity, radiation, and meteorological optics. In his most important work "Atmospherische Optik", he collected all published treatises and also supplied original papers necessary to complete certain subjects. Unfortunately he died before he had finished this valuable publication. His German translation of Abercromby's work, "The weather", is also noteworthy.

In 1897 Pernter became professor at the University of Vienna, and director of the Central Meteorological Institute. He reorganized the institute and extended it considerably, increasing the staff from fifteen to thirty-one. He made it possible for the institute to take part in balloon ascents for scientific purposes. A laboratory, a printing office, a reading room, etc., were added, also a bureau for seismic observations. Instruments for recording earth tremors were set up, and the institute supervised the network of stations for the study of earthquakes, its name being changed to "Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik". He introduced various improvements in practical weather forecasting, such as the free delivery of forecasts in the summer to all telegraph stations. During his directorate were introduced the experiments on so-called "weather-shooting", as a prevention of the dangers due to hail. These experiments created considerable excitement in the agricultural circles of Austria and Italy. Pernter examined the matter carefully and fearlessly, and came to a conclusion that proved to be the deathblow of this practice.

He was kind towards his subordinates and interested in their welfare. It will take some time before a full appreciation is had of all that he accomplished for the institute. The most important of his numerous political papers is "Voraussetzungslose Forschung, freie Wissenschaft und Katholizismus", published during the Mommsen agitation. In this essay he sought to prove the possibility of combining strict religious faith with exact research. Pernter was also one of the founders of the "Leo-Gesellschaft" in Vienna and of the branch at Innsbruck. These societies have suffered a great loss, because he took an active part as long as he could in all their work and propaganda. During the last years of his life he was a victim to sclerosis of the arteries, which especially affected his heart. He suffered very much through weakness of the heart, difficulty of breathing, and occasional fainting spells. He was also depressed by the sickness and death of his beloved young daughter and of his wife. These numerous blows combined to hasten his end.


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