Adolf Hermann Schröer (1872-1932)
Adolf Hermann Schröer was born 31 July 1872 as the son of a Prussian privy counsellor, living in Berlin-Nikolassee until the end of the First World War. Trained as a merchant in the wine trade, the triggers for his interest in oceanography are not entirely clear. It is presumed, however, that the establishment of the Institute of Maritime Sciences (Meereskunde) in Berlin in 1900 was an important factor as Schröer apparently attended the lectures as a guest student.
The Schröer family was wealthy enough before the First World War that Adolf had the spare time and financial independence to cultivate his interest for oceanography without being forced to hold down a regular job. In 1906 he became a life-long member of the Imperial Yacht Club and this probably gave him contacts and opened doors that would otherwise have remained closed.
Schröer’s interest in oceanography became obvious in late summer 1907, but most certainly was not new then. This year his name was to be found together with a countryman from Berlin on the list of participants on what came to be the traditional oceanography course in Bergen. In 1902 ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) was formed and it became a new force for increasing marine research. At this time there were few trained oceanographers, so when Bergen established such a course, it attracted an international clientele. As early as in spring 1903, in cooperation with the Fisheries Commission and Bergens Museum, the first oceanography course was held.
Attending those training courses Schröer became acquainted with Roald Amundsen in 1908. This led to activities in supporting the difficult acquisition of oceanographic instruments from German manufacturers. In the end Schröer was invited to participate in the Fram cruise of August 1910, taking responsibility for the technical-scientific sampling work. After the Fram cruise relations with Amundsen deteriorated as Schröer felt that his contribution to the oceanographic work was not fully appreciated, as he complained in letters to both Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen.
After this Schröer became advisor and helper for the acquisition of oceanographic data on behalf of Norwegian scientists such as Bjørn Helland-Hansen and Nansen.
A characterisation of Adolf Schröer’s role within oceanography would be that he was a talented instrument technician who gained his knowledge through his own studies of the practical problems connected with the function and maintenance of the measuring instruments. He contributed with considerable personal and financial commitment to help increase the theoretical knowledge of the ocean systems. Owing to the advent of difficult political times, he was not able to continue to develop his talents in the service of science. He died 60 years of age on 12 August 1932 in Heidelberg.
Reinhard Hoheisel-Huxmann, Deutsches Schiffahrtsarchiv, 1999