22 June 11

John Ruskin, Meteorologist

I just finished reading Paul N. Edwards’ excellent book A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. This book is a history of the information infrastructure that has grown as the sciences of meteorology and climatology have developed since the 19th century. The title of the book comes from the following quote, which Edwards uses as the book’s epigraph:

The meteorologist is impotent if alone; his observations are useless; for they are made upon a point, while the speculation to be derived from them must be on space…The Meteorological Society, therefore, has been formed not for a city, nor for a kingdom, but for the world. It wishes to be the central point, the moving power, of a vast machine, and it feels that unless it can be this, it must be powerless; if it cannot do all it can do nothing. It desires to have at its command, at stated periods, perfect systems of methodical and simultaneous observations; it wishes its influence and its power to be omnipresent over the globe so that it may be able to know, at any given instant, the state of the atmosphere on every point on its surface. — John Ruskin (1839).

John Ruskin as a twenty-year-old was into meteorology. Who knew?

Posted by at 09:07 PM in Books and Language | Link |

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