A Catalogue of Instruments and Models in the Possession of the American Philosophical Society

By Robert P. Multhauf | Go to book overview

IV
Meteorological Apparatus

Meteorology was a popular scientific subject among the Greeks of antiquity, but with the adoption of Aristotelian cosmology as a dogma in the Christian era the superlunary region receded into changeless perfection, and all irregular phenomena were assigned to the region between the earth and moon. Such spectacular occurrences as comets and meteors tended to monopolize the interest of observers, and these were frequently thought more appropriately elucidated by theology than by science. The revival of scientific meteorology began in the seventeenth century.

The shock administered by the scientists of that century to the then venerable Aristotelian cosmology involved more than a rearrangement of the planets. When Galileo found unexpected imperfections in the heavens ( 1610), and Pascal found ( 1648) that certain atmospheric phenomena possessed a peculiar regularity, the traditional distinction between the two realms began to evaporate. The atmosphere and the region of the meteors came back into the province of science.

The revived science of meteorology was taken up eagerly by the members of the new academies of science. In the late seventeenth century they began the development of virtually the whole series of meteorological instruments in use today, the thermometer, barometer, hygrometer, wind direction and velocity indicators, and others. By the end of another century the instruments had become commonplace, and the attention of the scientist turned increasingly from the instrument to the systematization of its use, to the attempt -- which still continues -- to understand the weather.

Of a series of standard or newly-invented thermometers received by the Society in the eighteenth century nothing remains, for they were, in all probability, put to use by the members. We know this to be the fate of the hygrometers received from Nairne in 1788, and surmise that it was also the fate of the rain gauges and barometers received on other occasions. Of a considerable number of meteorological instruments received, the sole example to have survived in the museum is the decorative barome

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A Catalogue of Instruments and Models in the Possession of the American Philosophical Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Early Museums of Instruments and Models 1
  • The American Philosophical Society 4
  • I - Apparatus for Astronomy, Geodesy, And Surveying. 8
  • II - Electrical Apparatus 16
  • III - Geographical Apparatus and Models 21
  • IV - Meteorological Apparatus 24
  • V - Apparatus for Physical Science and Medicine 26
  • VI - Mathematical Instruments and Models 34
  • VII - Mechanical Models 36
  • VIII - Agricultural Machinery 42
  • IX - Ship Models and Nautical Instruments 44
  • X - Timekeeping 49
  • XI - Heating Appliances 54
  • XII - Apparatus for the Graphic Arts 60
  • List of Specimens by Catalogue Number 63
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