Article ID: CBB495526025

The ‘genie of the Storm’: Cyclonic Reasoning and the Spaces of Weather Observation in the Southern Indian Ocean, 1851–1925 (2018)


This article engages with debates about the status and geographies of colonial science by arguing for the significance of meteorological knowledge making in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mauritius. The article focuses on how tropical storms were imagined, theorized and anticipated by an isolated – but by no means peripheral – cast of meteorologists who positioned Mauritius as an important centre of calculation in an expanding infrastructure of maritime meteorology. Charles Meldrum in particular earned renown in the mid-nineteenth century for theoretical insights into cyclone behaviour and for achieving an unprecedented spatial reach in synoptic meteorology. But as the influx of weather data dried up towards the end of the century, attention turned to developing practices of ‘single-station forecasting’, by which cyclones might be foreseen and predicted not through extended observational networks, but by careful study of the behaviour of one set of instruments in one place. These practices created new moral economies of risk and responsibility, as well as a ‘poetry’, as one meteorologist described it, in the instrumental, sensory and imaginative engagement with a violent atmospheric environment. Colonial Indian Ocean ‘cyclonology’ offers an opportunity to reflect on how the physical, economic and cultural geographies of an island colony combined to produce spaces of weather observation defined by both connection and disconnection, the latter to be overcome not only by infrastructure, but also by the imagination.

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Article Sebestian Kroupa; Stephanie J. Mawson; Dorit Brixius (2018) Science and Islands in Indo-Pacific Worlds. British Journal for the History of Science (pp. 541-558). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Naylor, Simon
Endfield, Georgina H.
Anderson, K. D.
Changnon, Stanley A.
Cheke, A. S.
Crewe, M. E.
Public Interest Report
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of Historical Geography
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
Environment and History
University of Oregon
Princeton University
Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam (Netherlands)
American Meteorological Society
Yale University Press
Climate and climatology
Science and war; science and the military
Beaufort, Sir Francis
Bjerknes, Vilhelm
Lamotius, Isaac Johannes
Manley, Gordon
Reid, William
Smyth, Charles Piazzi
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
17th century
18th century
Great Britain
Indian Ocean
United States
Great Britain. Royal Navy
Great Britain. Royal Air Force
British Admiralty

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