Frank Field, who brought groundbreaking meteorological qualifications to his job as a weather forecaster on New York television and who also had a long career as a host of network science and medicine programs, died Saturday in Florida. He was 100.
His death was announced by WNBC-TV in New York, where Dr. Field’s broadcasting career began in 1958.
Dr. A presence on New York and network television for more than 40 years, Field wasn’t the city’s first popular TV forecaster. But he differed from his predecessors in one important way.
The most notable of those predecessors (who also became his rivals) were Tex Antoine and Carol Reed. Mr. Antoine drew the mustachioed Uncle Wethbee on his weather charts for New York’s NBC and later ABC stations, changing the character’s facial expression and weather-related clothing depending on the forecast. Mrs. Reed capped off her nightly coverage on WCBS-TV with a cheery “Have a happy.” Both enjoyed long runs on television. But neither had expertise in weather science.
“Weather forecasting used to be in a class reporting real estate transactions for the newspaper,” Dr. Field to The New Yorker for a 1966 profile. “The networks thought it all had to be spiced up with pretty girls and other gimmicks.”
Bespectacled and “rather professional in nature,” as he was described in the magazine’s profile, Dr. Field more than makes up for his lack of flashes.
While he didn’t have a college degree in meteorology—his doctorate was in optometry, a profession he pursued for a time before embarking on a career in television—Dr. Field weather forecaster in the military, a degree that earned him recognition as a meteorologist by the American Meteorological Society. He was a recipient of the association’s seal of approval, which recognizes on-air weather forecasters who ensure “proper delivery of weather information to the general public”.
He drew on his technical knowledge to interpret data from weather satellites launched in the emerging space age, and to explain the details of the illustrated weather systems he showed on television.
He also established himself as a science reporter doing more than just the weather.
Dr. Field narrated live broadcasts of heart surgery and organ transplants. He was an advocate for fire safety programs and described the best ways to escape a building fire in the book “Dr. Frank Field’s Get Out Alive” (1992) and on an educational DVD for children and their parents, “Fire Is…” (2006 He also hosted the programs ‘Medical Update’ and ‘Health Field’.
Perhaps most famously, he published the Heimlich Maneuver, the life-saving procedure developed by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich in the 1970s using a bear hug and abdominal thrusts to remove food lodged in the throat. Dr. Field brought Dr. Heimlich to his studio for a demonstration.
Dr. Field received a citation at the 1975 New York Emmy Awards for “reporting developments in the applied sciences.” He was a fellow at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he studied the relationship between weather and health.
Franklin Field was born on March 30, 1923 in Queens, the son of Ukrainian immigrants. His father was a factory worker.
He studied geology at Brooklyn College and played center on the school’s football team—the quarterback was Allie Sherman, who would later become the head coach of the New York Giants—when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces in World War II and was commissioned as a lieutenant.
After the military trained him as a meteorology specialist, he flew over German-occupied France to analyze weather patterns that would influence American bombing campaigns. He later lectured on meteorology at air bases in the United States.
He did not return to Brooklyn College after the war, 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 private customers.
But when his wife, Joan, was expecting their first child, he sought a professional career that would provide greater financial stability. He studied optometric engineering at Columbia University, received his PhD from Massachusetts College of Optometry, and briefly worked as an optometrist in the early 1950s.
“If someone shouted ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ and I replied that the only thing I could do for the patient was nervously prescribe a change of glasses,” he told The New Yorker.
In addition to his nightly weather forecasts, Dr. Field space missions on network broadcasts, explaining the weather conditions astronauts would likely encounter when landing in the ocean.
Dr. Field left NBC in 1984 and moved to CBS, where he worked for 11 years. He later had stints at two New York local television stations, WNYW and WWOR. In 2004 he retired.
Dr. Field was also the senior figure of a TV weathercasting family. His son, Storm (née Elliott David Field), began providing weather reports on New York’s WABC in 1976 and had a long career there and on WCBS (where father and son briefly worked together) and WWOR. The daughter of dr. Field, Allison Field, was a weather forecaster with WCBS in addition to an acting career.
They outlive him, as does another daughter, Pamela Field; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Dr. Field’s wife, Joan Kaplan Field, died this year. Dr. Field lived in Boca Raton, Florida.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his serious demeanor, Dr. Field a presence on nighttime television.
After Johnny Carson made fun of him on “The Tonight Show,” Dr. Field (whom Carson jokingly referred to as NBC’s “crack meteorologist”) made occasional guest appearances on the show.
One night, during a rainy spell in New York, Carson and his “Tonight Show” colleagues poured buckets of water over him.
Dr. Field said he appreciated his “Tonight Show” appearances because they gave him national recognition outside the public for his weather, medical and scientific reports.
“He really gave me a safety rope,” he told The Daily News of New York in 2005. “It was definitely a lock — you couldn’t fire Frank Field.”
In December 1985, Dr. Field’s popularization of the Heimlich maneuver his life.
He was dining at a Manhattan restaurant with CBS sports reporter Warner Wolf when a piece of roast beef got stuck in Dr. Field. “There was no pain,” he later told NewsMadura. “I tried to swallow and couldn’t. I tried to cough. I was completely calm until I realized I couldn’t breathe.” He was also unable to talk to Mr. Wolf to convey his grief.
“So I pointed to my throat and got up to give him access,” said Dr. Field. “He did it the first time, and it didn’t work. I thought, ‘My God! It does not work. If I fell unconscious, I wouldn’t make the 11 o’clock news.’”
When Mr. Wolf tried again, he expelled the flesh.
“Warner had never done it before,” said Dr. Field, “but he had seen me demonstrate it on television.”