Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whipple, George Mathews

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WHIPPLE, GEORGE MATHEWS (1842–1893), physicist, the son of George Whipple, a native of Devonshire, was born on 15 Sept. 1842 at Teddington, Middlesex, where his father was master of the public school. He was educated at the grammar school, Kingston-on-Thames, at Dr. Williams's private school at Richmond, Surrey, and at King's College, London, taking a degree of B.Sc. at the university of London in 1871. During thirty-five years, from 4 Jan. 1858, when he entered the Kew Observatory in a subordinate capacity, he identified himself with the activity of that establishment, of which he became magnetic assistant in 1862, chief assistant in November 1863, and superintendent in 1876. He drew the plates for Warren de la Rue's ‘Researches in Solar Physics,’ 1865–6; improved the Kew magnetic instruments; invented, besides other optical apparatus, a device for testing the dark shades of sextants (Proceedings Royal Society, xxxv. 42); and made, with Captain Heaviside in 1873, a series of pendulum experiments, repeated with Colonel Herschel in 1881, and with General Walker in 1888, for determining the constant of gravitation. Wind-pressure and velocity were his lifelong study; he carried out at the Crystal Palace in 1874 a reinvestigation of the ‘cup-anemometer’ invented by Thomas Romney Robinson [q. v.]; and with General (Sir) Richard Strachey in 1890 conducted a research in cloud-photography under the meteorological council, communicating the results to the Royal Society on 23 April 1891 (ib. xlix. 467).

Whipple contributed freely to scientific collections, especially to the ‘Quarterly Journal’ of the Meteorological Society, of which body he became a member on 18 April 1874. He served on its council (1876 to 1887), and acted as its foreign secretary (1884–5). He sat also for many years on the council of the Physical Society of London, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 12 April 1872. He was assistant examiner in natural philosophy to the university of London (1876–81), and in the science and art department, South Kensington (1879–82 and 1884–9). The magnetic section of the ‘Report on the Eruption of Krakatoa,’ published by the Royal Society in 1888, was compiled by him. He died at Richmond in Surrey on 8 Feb. 1893.

[Men of the Time, 13th ed. 1891; Nature, 16 Feb. 1893; Times, 9 Feb. 1893; Quarterly Journal Royal Meteorological Society, xx. 113; Royal Society's Cat. Scientific Papers.]

A. M. C.