1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Symons, George James
SYMONS, GEORGE JAMES (1838-1900), English meteorologist, was born in Pimlico, London, on the 6th of August 1838. In 1860 he obtained a post in the meteorological department of the Board of Trade under Admiral Robert Fitzroy, who was then deeply interested in the subject of storm-warnings, and in the same year he published the first annual volume of British Rainfall, which contained records from 168 stations in England and Wales, but none from Scotland or Ireland. Three years later he resigned his appointment at the Board of Trade, where his rainfall inquiries were not appreciated - at least not as a prior study of storm-warnings - and devoted his whole energies to the organization of a band of volunteer observers for the collection of particulars of rainfall throughout the British Isles. So successful was he in this object that by 1866 he was able to show results which gave a fair representation of the distribution of rainfall, and the number of recorders gradually increased until the last volume of British Rainfall which he lived to edit (that for 1899) contained figures from 3528 stations2894 in England and Wales, 446 in Scotland, and 188 in Ireland. Apart from their scientific interest, these annual reports are of great practical importance, since they afford engineers and others engaged in water supply much-needed data for their calculations, the former absence of which had on some occasions given rise to grave mistakes. Symons himself devoted special study not only to rainfall, but also to the evaporation and percolation of water as affecting underground streams, and his extensive knowledge rendered him a valuable witness before parliamentary committees. In other branches of meteorology also he took a keen interest, and he was particularly indefatigable, though consistently unsuccessful, in the quest of a genuine thunderbolt. The history of the science too attracted his attention, and he possessed a fine library of meteorological works, which passed to the Meteorological Society at his death. Of that society he became a member when only eighteen, and he retained his connexion with it in various official capacities up to the end of his life. He served as its president in 1880, and in view of the celebration of its jubilee was re-elected to that office in 1900, but the illness that caused his death prevented him from acting. He died in London on the 10th of March 1900.