A brief history of Herr Berson and Professor Suring

By Willie Bodenstein


Arthur Josef Stanislaus Berson, a German meteorologist and pioneer of aerology was born on 6 August 1859 in of Neu Sandez, Galicia (now Nowy Sacz, Poland).

During the nineteenth century, balloonists had blazed a trail into the upper air, sometimes with tragic results. The first men to reach 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) did not know what they were facing.

It is now known that at an altitude of only 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), the brain loses 10 percent of the oxygen it needs and judgment begins to falter. At 18,000 feet (5,486 feet), there is a 30 percent decrease in oxygen to the brain and a person can lose consciousness in 30 minutes. At 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), loss of consciousness occurs in less than a minute without extra oxygen.

In 1862 Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher almost died at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Sivel and Crocé-Spinelli, who ascended in the balloon Zénith in April 1875 with balloonist Gaston Tissandier, died from oxygen deprivation. The last men of the era of the nineteenth century to dare altitudes over 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) were Herr Berson and Professor Süring of the Prussian Meteorological Institute, who ascended to 35,500 feet (10,820 meters) in 1901, a record that stood until 1931.

The last of the manned high-altitude balloon flights occurred at the end of the nineteenth century. On December 4, 1894, Herr Berson rose to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in his 92,000-cubic-foot (2,605-cubic-meter) Phoenix from a site in Strasburg, Austria. His improved instruments accurately recorded temperatures that were unaffected by solar radiation. In 1901, Berson and Professor Süring, both of the Prussian Meteorological Institute, ascended in the Preussen (Prussia) to a record height of 35,500 feet (10,820 meters). This record stood until 1931 when Auguste Piccard of Switzerland set a new record.

Berson passed away on 3 December 1942

Balloons at Bill Harrops


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