Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/810

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nal of Science (vol. lxxiv), says: "The honor of having established on satisfactory evidence the rotary and progressive character of ocean storms, and determining their modes of action and laws, it is due alike to the memory of the departed and the credit of our country to claim for William C. Redfield."

Redfield was a Connecticut man, born at Middletown in 1789. He was a naval engineer, and, besides his valuable contributions to this science, he was much interested in various other branches, and especially in the problem of increasing the speed of steamboats. Olmstead declares him to have been the first man to suggest a great railway system between the Hudson and the Mississippi.

It was in the year 1821 that Redfield began the study of what he called "Atlantic storms." He was led to it by a casual circumstance, like that which called out Franklin's hint as to the direction of the movement of these storms. And let it especially be noted, as the story of his investigation is told, how clearly that story teaches the value of close and patient study along some single line of facts, until their relations are laid bare and their meaning uncovered. Redfield is an illustration of the value to the world of men who know, not a great many things a little, but a few things a great deal.

In the year 1821 a severe storm prevailed along the Eastern coast, which for many years was known as the "great September gale." It held that title until September, 1869, when another and more remarkable one occurred, which rather disturbed its claim to the honor. It was a little time after this first storm that Redfield, while making a journey in Massachusetts, was struck by a somewhat curious fact. He noticed that in Massachusetts the trees prostrated by the wind, all lay with their heads to the southeast, showing that the gale there was from the northwest; but in Connecticut the trees blown down in the same storm lay head to the northwest, showing that the gale had been a southeast one. He ascertained, moreover, that when the wind was blowing southeast in Middletown, his home, it was northwest at a place not seventy miles from there. It was then that the idea flashed across his mind that the gale was a progressive whirlwind. That was a great thought. It was such a flash of perception as came to Newton when he connected the falling apple with the planets in space. It was such an insight into the meaning of a fact as James Watt had when he saw the possibilities of the force that was rattling the lid of the kettle on his mother's fire. The development of that idea was destined one day to put Redfield in the ranks of the great scientific thinkers of his day. He made this storm the basis of his investigations, following his researches into its movements by a careful collection of facts in relation to others like it. For ten years he studied, and examined and com-