Thesis ID: CBB001560708

Weather Prediction in Early Modern England (2002)


Vogel, Brant Montgomery (Author)

Emory University
Bay, Edna G.

Publication Date: 2002
Edition Details: Advisor: Bay, Edna G.
Physical Details: 334 pp.
Language: English

The historiography of meteorology recognizes a discontinuity between the classical meteorology of Aristotle, which analyzed the causes of remarkable weather events, and modern meteorology, which applies instruments to the study of the atmosphere and weather prediction. It is commonly held that the invention of the thermometer and the barometer, and the exploitation of such instruments by the scientific societies of the seventeenth century, laid the foundation of modern meteorology. This study contextualizes the history of instruments as they were developed and studied by the Royal Society. Working toward an answer to the question of why English natural philosophers thought they could predict the future with instruments which measured the state of the air, popular and intellectual weather prediction practices outside the Aristotelian tradition are examined as conditioning the way instruments would be understood. The almanac mediated between people and weather in early modern England. Weather predictions in popular literature were based on natural astrology along with other co-existing practices: popular traditions of weather signs and lunar weather prediction, and a classical tradition in weather signs. Within this context, the new instruments took on a popular as well as scientific role, starting as instruments of natural magic, then becoming items of commerce and signs of class. The use of instruments as outlined in popular manuals was a hybrid of scientific methodology with astrological and folk practice. While the market in instruments expanded, the Royal Society made several attempts to initiate a Baconian study of the weather, based on the weather diary, which took its tabular form from almanacs. Instruments remained controversial within scientific circles, until, as in the popular imagination, their efficacy became an unexamined commonplace. Meanwhile, astrologers acting at the fringes of scientific circles attempted to reform astrometeorology through Baconian methods not unlike those used by instrumental meteorology, attracting interest from certain scientists, and hostility from others. By the mid-eighteenth century popular and astrological practice descended in status, while instrumental weather study continued to be pursued in quasi-statistical fashion, having more affinity to climatology and public health than to the modern meteorology that would be developed in subsequent centuries.


Description On the ways that weather prediction was influenced by several different traditions, including astrology, folk practice, and scientific-instrument-based study. Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 63 (2003): 4067. UMI order no. 3071421.

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Authors & Contributors
Ion Mihailescu
Macadam, Joyce
Zouckermann, Raymond
Vittori, Ottavio
Vasari, Giorgio
Ulbrich, Karl
Journal for Maritime Research: Britian, the Sea and Global History
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Journal of Interdisciplinary History
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Oxford University Press
Measuring instruments
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Weather forecasting
Instruments, navigational
Galilei, Galileo
Wren, Christopher
Vasari, Giorgio
Torricelli, Evangelista
Shakespeare, William
Ruskin, John
Time Periods
17th century
19th century
18th century
Early modern
16th century
United States
Great Britain
Royal Institute of British Architects
Royal Society of London

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