Frank Field, the meteorologist who earned a groundbreaking qualification for his job as a television weather forecaster in New York and also had a long career as a host of network programs on science and medicine, died in Florida on Saturday. He was 100.
His death was announced by WNBC-TV in New York, where Dr. Field began his broadcasting career in 1958.
dr Field, who has been on New York City television and network television for more than 40 years, wasn’t the city’s first popular television forecaster. But he differed from his predecessors in one important respect.
The most notable of these predecessors (who also became his rivals) were Tex Antoine and Carol Reed. Mr. Antoine drew the mustachioed Uncle Wethbee on his weather maps for NBC and later ABC in New York, changing the character’s facial expression and weather-related clothing according to the weather forecast. Ms. Reed ended her evening reports on WCBS-TV with a cheerful “Happy Birthday.” Both enjoyed long television appearances. But none of them had expertise in weather science.
“Weather forecasting used to be in a class with real estate transaction reporting for the newspaper,” said Dr. Field told the New Yorker in a 1966 profile. “The networks thought it needed to be spiced up with pretty girls and other gimmicks.”
dr Bespectacled and “quite professorial,” as described in the magazine’s profile, Field more than made up for his lack of glamor.
Although he did not have a college degree in meteorology – he earned his PhD in optometry, a profession he practiced for a time before embarking on a career in television – Dr. Field had been a military weather forecaster, a qualification that earned him recognition as a meteorologist from the American Meteorological Society. He received the society’s seal of approval, which recognizes on-air forecasters who “provide good weather information to the general public”.
He used his technical knowledge to interpret data from weather satellites launched at the dawn of the space age and to explain the details of the weather systems depicted he showed on television.
He also established himself as a science reporter, covering more than just the weather.
dr Field hosted live broadcasts of cardiac surgeries and organ transplants. He was an advocate of fire safety programs and in the book Dr. Frank Field’s “Get Out Alive” (1992) and an instructional DVD for children and their parents “Fire Is…” (2006). He also hosted the programs Medical Update and Health Field.
Perhaps most famously, he popularized the Heimlich maneuver developed by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich in the 1970s developed life-saving procedures that used a bear hug and abdominal thrusts to dislodge food stuck in the throat. dr Field brought Dr. Secretly to a demonstration in his studio.
dr Field received an award at the 1975 New York Emmy Awards for “Covering Developments in the Applied Sciences.” He was a Fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he studied the relationship between weather and health.
Franklyn Field was born on March 30, 1923 in Queens to Ukrainian immigrants. His father was a factory worker.
He was studying geology at Brooklyn College and was a center on the school’s football team—the quarterback was Allie Sherman, who later became the head coach of the New York Giants—when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces during World War II and was commissioned as a second lieutenant .
After the military trained him as a meteorology specialist, he flew over German-occupied France to analyze weather patterns that would affect American bombing raids. He later lectured on meteorology at US air bases.
After the war he did not return to Brooklyn College but continued his work in meteorology. He joined the staff of the United States Weather Bureau in Manhattan and ran companies that provided weather data to newspapers and consumers.
But when his wife Joan was expecting their first child, he began looking for a career that would give him more financial stability. He studied optometry at Columbia University, received his PhD from Massachusetts College of Optometry, and worked briefly as an optometrist in the early 1950s.
“If someone yelled, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ and I replied that all I could do for the patient was nervously prescribe him a pair of extra glasses,” he told the New Yorker.
In addition to his nightly weather forecasts, Dr. Field used space missions on TV shows and explained the weather conditions that astronauts were likely to encounter when they landed in the ocean.
dr Field left NBC in 1984 for CBS, where he worked for 11 years. He later worked for two local television stations in New York, WNYW and WWOR. He retired in 2004.
dr Field was also the oldest character in a TV weather station family. His son Storm (born Elliott David Field) began reporting weather at WABC in New York in 1976 and went on to have a long career there and at WCBS (where father and son worked together briefly) and WWOR. dr Field’s daughter Allison Field was also a weather forecaster at WCBS in addition to her acting career.
They outlive him, as does another daughter, Pamela Field; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. The wife of Dr. Field, Joan Kaplan Field, passed away this year. dr Field lived in Boca Raton, Florida.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his serious demeanor, Dr. Field featured on late-night television.
After Johnny Carson made fun of him on The Tonight Show, Dr. Field (whom Carson jokingly dubbed NBC’s “crack meteorologist”) is an occasional guest on the show.
One night during a rainy spell in New York, Carson and his Tonight Show castmates poured buckets of water over him.
dr Field said he appreciates his Tonight Show appearances because they have given him national recognition beyond the audience for his weather, medical and scientific reporting.
“He really gave me a safety line,” he told The Daily News of New York in 2005. “It was absolutely a ban — you couldn’t fire Frank Field.”
In December 1985, Dr. Field’s popularization of the Heimlich maneuver marked his life.
He was dining with CBS sports reporter Warner Wolf at a Manhattan restaurant when Dr. Field got a piece of roast beef stuck in his throat. “There was no pain,” he later told the New York Times. “I tried to swallow and couldn’t. I tried to cough. I was completely calm until I realized I was choking.” He was also unable to speak to Mr. Wolf to express his distress.
“So I pointed to my throat and stood up to give him access,” said Dr. fields. “He did it the first time and it didn’t work. I thought, “My God!” It’s not working. If I passed out, I wouldn’t be on the 11 o’clock news.’”
When Mr. Wolf tried again, he expelled the meat.
“Warner never did,” said Dr. Field, “but he saw me doing it on TV.”