The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future
In 1865 a broken Admiral Robert FitzRoy locked himself in his dressing room and cut his throat. His grand meteorological project had failed. Yet only a decade later, FitzRoy's storm-warning system and 'forecasts' would return, the model for what we use today. In an age when a storm at sea was evidence of God's great wrath, nineteenth-century meteorologists had to fight against convention and religious dogma. But buoyed by the achievements of the Enlightenment a generation of mavericks set out to explain the secrets of the atmosphere and learned to predict the future. Among them were Luke Howard, the first to classify the clouds, Francis Beaufort who quantified the winds, James Glaisher, who explored the upper atmosphere in a hot-air balloon, Samuel Morse whose electric telegraph gave scientists the means by which to transmit weather warnings, and FitzRoy himself, master sailor, scientific pioneer and founder of the Met Office. Reputations were built and shattered. Fractious debates raged over decades between scientists from London to Galway, Paris to New York. Explaining the atmosphere was one thing, but predicting what it was going to do seemed a step too far. In 1854, when a politician suggested to the Commons that Londoners might soon know the weather twenty-four hours in advance, the House roared with laughter. Peter Moore's exhilarating account navigates treacherous seas, rough winds and uncovers the obsession that drove these men to great invention and greater understanding.
This is the story of our greatest obsession: a gripping account of the sailors, scientists and inventors who sought to understand the weather
Peter Moore is a writer, freelance journalist and lecturer. He teaches creative non-fiction at City University and lives in London. His first book, Damn His Blood, an acclaimed history of a rural murder in 1806, was published in 2012. www.peter-moore.co.uk. @petermoore.