Today's The 150th Anniversary of Weather Forecasting? You Decide
I’m an avid fan of Dr. John Lienhard’s Engines of Our Ingenuity, a widely-syndicated, brief weekday radio essay that’s “interested in the way inventive minds work” (the show’s tagline). The show is produced at the University of Houston and one of Lienhard’s staunchest recurring themes is that almost nothing is invented without prior evolution. For example, the Wright brothers get credit for inventing fixed-wing air travel despite the fact that hundreds of others over a long period of time contributed essential elements, techniques and technologies that combined to make the first flight at Kitty Hawk possible.
And so whereas I smile at the thought of today being the “150th anniversary of the weather forecast” – take 3 minutes and go watch this, a well-produced if somewhat thesis-challenged summation of the event – my first thought goes to the thousands of untold scientists, philosophers, mariners, agriculturalists, et al who historically preceded the star of the video and who contributed to our ability to predict the weather before that point in time, a capability that continues to evolve today.
Humans prefer reality to be sewn up in objective little packets of data, so it’s tempting to give Vice-Admiral FitzRoy and The Times credit for “the first public weather forecast.” But I think Aristotle and Archimedes would disagree. Which is not to say FitzRoy doesn’t deserve recognition. He did, after all, make significant contributions to the overall process of how we still gather data, analyze it, make prognostications and, perhaps most importantly, accurately and precisely communicate it.
In the end, like the venerable weather forecast itself, your information is only as good as your source of information. Whether radio or video, U.S. Navy or ancient philosophers, the whole story is often not found in just one location. (Unless, of course, that one location is ImpactWeather.)
Hit the comment box with who else can you think of that contributed to the art and science of meteorology.