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Windswept – Trustee Profile: Dr. Edward Brooks

By Lala Dinsmore

Ed and Sarah Brooks

He thanked me for selecting him for this issue's "Trustee Profile," but I felt it was I who should be thanking him for serving the Observatory in so many ways. Ed Brooks' vitae describes a background that is not only fascinating, but mind-boggling to a weather neophyte. It is a privilege to salute a gent with such an impressive career.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 19, 1916, the son of Eleanor Stabler and Charles Brooks, Ed spent most of his childhood in Washington, D.C. and Worcester, Massachusetts. He married Sarah Kerena Bergh in 1941 and the couple were blessed with eight children, and now can claim 32 grandchildren. Ed Brooks is one of those few persons who worked on the summit for the Observatory during the summer of 1933. During that summer he was also measuring the speed and direction of cloud motions by using a large circular nephoscope mirror.

Ed Brooks, can thank his grandparents for his initial interest in Mount Washington. He visited them at Silver Lake, in Madison during the summer of 1922 when he was a lad of six. He has been an Observatory member since the 1930's, and has served as a trustee since September, 1965, when he was also appointed to the Executive Committee.

"This was arranged by the late Wallace Howell, so I could begin a six-year editorship of the MWO News Bulletin (1965-1971)", said Ed. He said he had to "give up the editorship when he went to Taiwan to study local typhoons."

Graduating from Harvard in 1937, with a cum laude degree in mathematics, he collected a Master of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT in 1939, and a Doctor of Science Degree from MIT in Meteorology in 1945. His long and impressive teaching record started in 1939 when he taught classes in meteorology for Pan American Airways. During the next fifty- nine years, while teaching mostly at Boston College, he has at various times been a Professor of Meteorology, Geophysics, and Astronomy at such other institutions as MIT, St. Louis University, SUNY Plattsburgh, Taiwan National University, University of Sao Paulo, and King Abdul Asiz University in Saudi Arabia. Somewhere in between all of that teaching he managed to serve as a Research Associate for five high-tech industries in Greater Boston from 1961 to 1967.

Looking back on his summit observer days when he used to cook for the crew, Ed's razor-sharp memory brings out the reasons for his having to start breakfast the night before. "I did not have a Denver high-altitude cook book, or a pressure cooker. I did not have Quick Quaker Oats, but only ordinary Quaker Oats. I did not have water boiling at 212oF, but at such a low temperature that I could put my hands in the water."

He said the water disappeared so fast, that he had to get up every few hours to add water all night so it "wouldn't boil dry". In fact, he said, "It took me five minutes to cook a 'three minute egg'".

Ed also tells about an amazing heat wave that occurred on the rockpile when he was an observer. "One day when the temperature was about 70oF. at the summit, many bugs left the even hotter lowlands, and flew up to the summit. Here they collected on my observer's pad outdoors until my paper was no longer visible through the black carpet of insects! In order to write my observations, I had to put my pen aside to wipe the bugs off every few minutes."

In a bittersweet ending to his reminiscences, Ed says that the "sad part of all this humor is that I was unable to keep the four observers alive as long as I wanted." (After all, that was 66 years ago, Ed.)

Ed Brooks obviously didn't sit around twiddling his thumbs during breaks even while he was teaching. He was the joint author of the book, The Meteorology of Mars and Venus in 1942, and in 1968 he was a Certified Consulting Meteorologist for the AMS in Boston. He authored the article, "The Tornado Cyclone" in the magazine, Weatherwise in April of 1949. This introduced the idea of the "tornado cyclone" -- the strong outer ring of the tornado. He also established further sunspot weather connections in other writings for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Ed Brooks says he's now retired. But that's hard to believe. What about his hopes for the Observatory? Ed says , "My hopes are that the Observatory will continue meteorological research and education as well as observations for establishing mountain climatological trends and periodicities in the future."


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