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Hidden science: Library intern discovers long-lost rainmaking device invented 70 years ago

Rainmaker device

(NaturalNews) Unbeknownst to virtually everyone, a scientist built a device around the middle of last century that could actually make it rain, and now a research internist is hard at work trying to find it.

As reported by McClatchy Papers, while working at the Tacoma (Washington) Historical Society, Nichole Hine came across an old black-and-white photograph of what was described as a rainmaking machine.

While checking the archives of the Tacoma Public Library, Hines, 21, discovered the photo while working on an exhibit about local inventors. The picture depicts the inventor of the device, which is about the size of a suitcase, loading it onto an airplane, but it did not contain much information about where the machine may be today.

What Hine found even more surprising is that the inventor, Robert Sprenger, went to the same institute of higher learning as she, the University of Puget Sound, where she graduates in December.

In the 1940s, Sprenger worked as a chemistry professor at what was then known as the College of Puget Sound. Besides instructing, he worked on inventing things.

"I'd never heard of any sort of invention to come out of UPS," Hine told McClatchy Papers.

Hard to locate

After making her discovery, Hine searched the university's online archives, where she began to discover more and more information about the mysterious machine from an article Sprenger penned for a 1948 UPS alumni publication. In the piece, Sprenger delved into the science behind his rainmaking device, and provided details of his testing of the machine in the Prosser area in 1947.

Once affixed to an aircraft and aloft, the "vapor generator," as it was called, would seed "finely divided particles of silver iodide, in the form (of) an invisible vapor" into clouds. The particles would then freeze in the clouds as if they were snow, and as they fell to earth the flakes would be heated in the warmer atmosphere and turned into rain.

G.A. Sampson, another alumnus of UPS and a wheat broker who wanted the machine to help in "semidry wheat-growing areas in eastern Washington," commissioned Sprenger to design and build it.

In a quest to find the machine for the inventors' display she was assembling, Hine contacted UPS officials and asked if they might know where it was, because her research had failed to determine where it may have wound up.

"I really haven't been able to find very much ... at all," she said. "That's the problem, it's just very obscure."

On June 15 the university posted the search for the machine on its Facebook page.

'A smell I've always loved'

In the past few months, Katie Henningsen, an archivist at UPS, said she has gotten at least eight phone calls regarding the machine, but has yet to turn up any information as to its whereabouts.

That said, the new publicity about the machine did catch the attention of the inventor's daughter, Sally Sprenger. And though she said she couldn't say where it was either, she recalled faintly remembering when her father worked on "the machine for feeding clouds."

"I always remember he had a little office, his little inventing studio," said Sprenger, 69. "That's where he worked out his projects."

As unique and interesting as the rainmaking machine is, it was far from Robert Sprenger's only invention. In fact, had he not died at the young age of 53 from diabetes-related kidney failure, he might have invented many more wonderful devices.

Sally Sprenger told McClatchy Papers that when her professor father was not teaching, he was always experimenting on new things. She said his shirts were always covered with small holes from chemical burns during experiments.

"He always smelled of chemicals," said his daughter, who currently lives in France after working at UPS' Study Abroad office. "It's a smell that I've always loved."





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