Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/813

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

straight away from one point of the compass; and one of the theories advanced in opposition to this, held that the winds in these systems blew radially in to a common center. Redfield, however, maintained that they blew neither radially toward the center, nor yet in circles around it, but as water or smoke in a vortex, with a constant inclination to the center. Here, too, he came very close to the most commonly received doctrine of this present time; and it proved in entire harmony with the law propounded by Ballot—a law which may be thus expressed: "The wind which blows around an area of low barometer, blows neither in circles returning on themselves, nor directly toward that point; but it takes a direction intermediate, approaching, however, more nearly the direction of circular curves than of radii to a center." Redfield's researches also showed that the winds about a low-pressure space blow in a direction contrary to that of the hands of a watch.

One fact more should be stated in reference to the nature of Redfield's work and its practical value. Few discoveries in science have ever been turned more quickly to the benefit of mankind; for one of Redfield's first undertakings, after establishing these laws of the great Atlantic storms, was to formulate certain rules for the management of vessels during these gales, by which the heaviest force of the storm may be avoided. One of the completest answers to the skeptical queries of matterof-fact people as to the utility of purely scientific studies, is found in the fact that the outcome of Redfield's studies as attested by United States naval officers like Commodore Rodgers and Lieutenant Maury, was an immediate service to ship-masters in showing them how to avoid the heaviest parts of a cyclone, and save their vessels the risk and the wear and tear of an encounter with the violent winds of the storm-center.

James P. Espy.—But we must leave the work of Redfield, important though it was, and move on, in fulfillment of our purpose, to note the contributions of those other men who helped to complete our knowledge of great American storms.

In the year 1850, Prof. James P. Espy, one of the most original and talented of American meteorologists, published his conclusions in regard to the character of American storms, which must be regarded as the next step in the enlargement of our knowledge on the subject. His views were presented in a work entitled The Philosophy of Storms, the fruit of earnest and painstaking studies. The great feature of this work was its presentation of a new class of storms. Espy directed attention to those great atmospheric disturbances which no one hitherto had dealt with, which move across the continent from west to east and which do not originate in the West Indies. Redfield's