Articles on meteorological instruments in the Whipple Museum's collection

This section contains articles on the history of meteorology and the instruments used to study the atmosphere. Though many of the instruments used to study weather and atmosphere were invented in the seventeenth century or earlier, it was during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that significant developments in weather research occurred. Use the links below or in the menu to the left to select an article.

What is meteorology? What meteorologists study has changed considerably since philosophers first began to observe and measure the atmosphere with instruments. Models were one way to help philosophers visualise weather related events, such as lightning striking the earth.

Barometers. Barometers were used to calculate the height of a mountain summit above sea level, but air pressure also indicated possible changes in weather. During the eighteenth century, studying the weather was a fashionable pursuit for the gentry, and barometers were increasingly hung in domestic spaces.

Early thermometers and temperature scales. The first thermometers were not marked with a measuring scale, but were used to show relative differences in heat or cold. Several different types of thermometer design are discussed in this section.

Measuring air humidity. The saturation of water vapour in the atmosphere affects how the temperature of air is felt. Early hygrometers studied conditions that transformed atmospheric water-vapour into condensation or dew.

Weather forecasting. Predicting weather has always been problematic. During the nineteenth century, published weather guides helped the public anticipate weather conditions.

Cloud studies. Looking at clouds is an easy way of studying weather conditions in the upper atmosphere. Clouds became a focus of meteorological research during the nineteenth century.

Weather mapping and modern meteorology. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a more systematic approach to collecting accounts of weather conditions, which included charting weather on maps. With the development of the aviation and space industries, collecting data from the three layers of our atmosphere - mesosphere, troposphere, and stratosphere - became increasingly important.

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