Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/46

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

atmosphere, upon the progress of vegetation, the prevalence of disease, changes of population, and migration of animals. The field of observation extended from the Ural Mountains in the east to Cambridge, in the United States, in the west; and from Greenland and Norway in the north to Rome in the south. This range included also stations upon three high mountains in Bavaria and upon the summit of St. Gothard. The observations of each year are summed up and compared with those which precede, in copious and most laborious tables of mean and extreme results, and many very interesting essays upon various branches of meteorology are interspersed throughout the volumes of the society.

Unfortunately for science, the secretary, Hemmer, died in the month of May, 1790, and from that time the society appears to have languished, and finally to have become extinct amid the troubles and the wars of the French Revolution.[1]

It might be of interest to trace the progress of meteorology since the days of the Palatinate Society—to recount the many improvements in the instruments, the new auxiliaries impressed into its service, the successive unfolding of its laws as immense masses of data came into view, and the gradual passing of the subject from the care of amateurs, who pursued it mostly as a pastime or matter of curious inquiry, into trained hands and organized bodies maintained by liberal government support. But this is not my purpose here: with a passing glance at an important guide-post erected about the year 1840 on the highway of this science, I will make a single stride over all this field and come at once to the problem proposed to the meteorologist of the present day, and the means at his command for its solution.

The writer of this guide to the way beyond gives in clear-cut outline all that has since been realized both in this country and England. After stating the necessity of making observations on land coördinate with those at sea, in order to study the atmosphere in its entirety, he uses these prophetic words: "This extension of the system landward was proposed in the beginning as a part of the original plan. I have never ceased to advocate it since, and to couple with it a system of daily weather reports through the telegraph. As much as we have accomplished at sea, more yet can be accomplished through the magnetic telegraph on the land. With a properly devised system of meteorological observations to be made at certain stations wherever the telegraph spreads its meshes, and to be reported daily by telegrams to a properly organized office, the shipping in the harbors of our seaport towns, the husbandman in the field, and the traveler on the road, may all be warned of every extensive storm that visits our shores, and while yet it is a great way off. The laurels to be anticipated from such extension of our beautiful field of research would crown the results

  1. For these particulars of the Society of the Palatinate I am indebted to the valuable treatise on meteorology by the late Professor John Frederick Daniell, of England.