Frederick Bartman

Frederick Bartman, educator and upper atmosphere research engineer, died Oct. 26 at Towsley Village in Chelsea after a long illness. He was 90 years old.

The cause was a neurologically based disease similar to but distinguishable from Parkinson’s.

Bartman was professor emeritus of the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, and Department of Aerospace Engineering. He began his U-M career in 1948 as a research engineer in the High Altitude Research Laboratory. He was a member of one of the early post-World War II research teams using rockets to investigate the upper atmosphere when little was known about that layer of the atmosphere. During the late 1940s and into the 1950s teams of “rocket scientists,” including U-M researchers, launched captured German V-2 rockets and, later, Aerobee sounding rockets from both White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, and Fort Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to measure upper atmospheric winds, temperature and pressures, expanding atmospheric knowledge.

By 1960 Bartman’s research focused on measuring atmospheric infrared radiation and the reflecting properties of the Earth using high altitude balloons launched near Sioux Falls, S.D. The High Altitude Lab’s specially outfitted bus tracked these gigantic, multi-story balloons. Into the 1970s, Bartman participated in seminal studies of infrasound in the atmosphere from meteor trails. He and fellow researchers demonstrated that sub-audible sound waves from meteors entering the upper atmosphere could be detected, and then used to remotely infer temperatures and winds in the upper atmosphere. His subsequent research centered on the measurement and computer modeling of the Earth’s radiation budget.

Bartman was born in Milwaukee, Wis., on July 22, 1919. A high school teacher encouraged him to pursue math, somewhat to the dismay of his father who wanted him to take a railroad job immediately following graduation. They struck a deal. Bartman could take college preparatory math courses if he also took technical training classes. He worked his way through the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1941 (Bachelor of Science, electrical engineering). Degree in hand, he got on a train in Milwaukee, and off at East Pittsburgh, Penn., where he had taken a job at Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Moving on to Westinghouse’s Lamp Division in Bloomfield, N.J., he met Merlee Nash, a Westinghouse secretary. They were married Sept. 11, 1943, in Orange, N.J.

While at Westinghouse, Fred earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in 1945. Later in 1945 he enrolled at Princeton University to take graduate courses in physics. In 1948 Bartman, Merlee and their baby girl moved to Willow Run, Mich., so he could work as an aeronautical research engineer at U-M. He was hired by Myron Nichols, a Princeton radio telemetry pioneer who came to U-M in 1946. Nichols was a member of the national panel formed in 1946 to oversee the use of the captured German V-2s. Thus began Bartman’s professional career as an atmospheric scientist.

Bartman received both his Master of Arts in mathematics (1951) and his doctorate in meteorology, and instrumentation and control engineering (1967) from U-M. Director of the High Altitude Engineering Laboratory from 1970-80, he also was acting chairman of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in 1973-74. He was honored with a departmental Outstanding Teacher Award for the 1984-85 academic year and was featured in Ken Macrorie’s 1984 book “Twenty Teachers.”

Bartman was preceded in death by his wife Merlee, son Bruce and his late-life companion Anne Jones. He is survived by three daughters, Mary Lee Morgan, Jane Bartman and Ruth Bartman; niece Karen Naedele; nephew William Wynne; and nephew Robert Kozlosky.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Bartman’s memory may be made to the U-M Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science Department Scholarship Fund, or Arbor Hospice.

A celebration of Bartman’s life will take place at 11 a.m. Nov. 15 at the Michigan League.


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