in Predicting the Weather

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780226019680
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226019703 | DOI:

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Meteorology in Victorian Britain was a science of expectations, not only in the literal sense in that it dealt with statements about future weather, but also figuratively, in that it summarized what Victorians thought science could or should be. The status of weather prediction as reliable knowledge grew from the difficulty of understanding atmospheric change. Throughout the nineteenth century, meteorologists struggled not only with the process of data collection but with the relationship of particular observations to the general laws of atmospheric change. In philosophical terms, this was the problem of induction: how could one build a general understanding from the accumulation of facts? Coupled to the philosophical and practical difficulty with observations in meteorology was the definition of probable knowledge. The development of weather observation networks coincided with the introduction of a new approach to probabilities: the statistical management of large amounts of data to reveal underlying patterns.

Keywords: weather prediction; atmospheric change; meteorology; induction; probabilities; statistical management

Chapter.  3672 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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