Cornhill Magazine,  2 (1860), 565–79.


[David T Ansted]




Meterology, Climatology, Prognostication, Observation, Animal Behaviour, Electricity, Instruments, Magnetism, Telegraphy, Astronomy, Agriculture, Gas Chemistry, Amateurism, Progress, Immaterialism, Force

People mentioned:

John F W Herschel

    Begins by defining the difference between weather and climate. Even without complex instruments, 'our own observations of the external world' can help us become 'weather-wise' (567). Indeed, the 'life-long observation of small signs' made by the 'weather-beaten sailor or the old shepherd [...] combine all that a dozen instruments and as many careful meteorologists could discover' (575). Reports that a 'great magnetic storm' in August 1859 caused 'an extraordinary disturbance of currents along telegraph wires' (572). The 'ultimate causes of weather' are traced back to the sun (576), the varieties of climate being determined by 'those rays which communicate light, heat, chemical action and electricity'. It has recently been observed, moreover, that the appearance of 'large dark spots' obscuring the face of the sun are accompanied by 'magnetic disturbances on the earth ' which induce a 'great general derangement of the weather over large areas'. (577) The 'study of the weather', then, involves the observation of 'the course of vegetation and the habit of animals' as well as 'some of the highest problems and most remarkable speculations of physical astronomy'. Furthermore, there is 'probably no department of science in which more real advance has been made within the last quarter of a century than in meteorology'. (578) Noting the 'mutual dependence that exists between the material and immaterial parts of the great system of creation', speculates that 'we may almost recognize the reality of an existence unhampered by material impediments, when we find an instantaneous response of our innermost sense and sensations to a material stimulus applied within the burning atmosphere of the sun'. The 'peculiarities of constitution' endured by 'persons of high nervous organization' may have their origin in 'a more ready sensibility to these real but indefinable natural forces'. (579)

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