Some Irish Meteorologists and their Work
by Fred E. Dixon
‘Beware of blaspheming in relation to the weather; a vulgar impious practice
Hugh Hamilton (1729—1805) was Professor of Natural Philosophy at ‘TCD and his Philosophical essays (1766) showed clear understanding of evaporation and condensation and cloud formation. He suspected that aurora was the result of electrical discharge. He was the first man to suggest adjusting the scale of a barometer to allow for the change of mercury level in the cistern.
Richard Kirwan (1733—1812) was not only the greatest Irish meteorologist to date, but was eminent in chemistry, mineralogy and other sciences. He used Rutty’s data to derive regression equations for predicting seasonal weather with great success. Unfortunately the rhythms have changed and neither his equations nor attempts at modern ones have yielded good results. Many of his ideas, published in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, anticipated 20th- century concepts, such as the air-mass idea, with air masses classified as polar, extra-tropical, intra-tropical, supra-terrene and supra-marine. He believed in a general circulation but thought that when air from the equator reached the poles it was combusted and this caused the
Richard Kirwan, 1733-1812 (from a drawing by Brocas in the
Kirwan’s first meteorological publication was An estimate of temperature of different latitudes,
Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774—1857), born at Collon with French ancestry and most famed as hydrographer, was much influenced by his brother-in-law (later his father-in-law) Richard Lovell Edgeworth, whose interests included meteorology. The Beaufort scale of wind force, and Beaufort’s system of weather letters are both widely used.
Sir Francis Beaufort, 1774—1857 (The painting by S. Pearce in the National Portrait Gallery,
Thomas Romney Robinson (1792—1882), Director Armagh Observatory, married another of Edgeworth daughters and it was Edgeworth who suggested the design of the cup anemometer which Robinson perfected after years of experimenting. He was born in
Dr James Apjohn (1796—1886), born in Granard, was first Professor of Chemistry in the Royal College of Surgeons Dublin, where he began regular meteorological observations. Although his development of the wet-bulb equation was not the first, his treatment was the most thorough and his form e = esw— Ap(t—t’) is still used. It was not derived for meteorologists but to help the determination of the specific heats of gases.
Sir George Gabriel Stokes (1819—1905), born at Skreen, was most noted for his hydrodynamics and made other contributions to meteorology. He was a member of the Meteorological Council, for which he developed the theory of the constriction in barometer tubes. He also made
General Sir Edward Sabine (1788—1883), born in Dublin, was President of the Royal Society, arctic explorer, geophysicist, and largely responsible for the chain of observatories at Toronto, St Helena, Cape of Good Hope, India and Tasmania, for which the observers were trained at TCD.
Humphrey Lloyd (1800—1881), Dublin-born Provost of Trinity College, was more concerned with geomagnetism than meteorology. He established the special building (now at
Yeates & Son originated about 1790 and from the 1830s to 1970s occupied the shop at the corner of
John Tyndall (1820—1895), born at
Robert Henry Scott (1833—1916), born in
Robert Henry Scott (1833—1916), the founder of Valentia Observatory and first Director of the British Meteorological Office (Photo supplied by FE.
John Joly (1857—1933) claimed to have Irish, French, German, Italian and Greek blood. He was Professor of Geology at TCD, and was a pioneer in colour photography. His principal meteorological innovation was a system of recording the principal elements at a distance from the instruments. He also invented a fractionating raingauge to separate the catch at different periods of a storm, to facilitate the determination of changes in the proportions of suspended matter.
Space does not permit discussion of 20th-century workers, but I am sure that when the Centenary volume is compiled that Mariano Doporto and Leo Wenzel Pollak will find a place.