Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Murphy, Patrick

MURPHY, PATRICK (1782–1847), weather prophet, was born in 1782. His name was very prominent in 1838 as the author of 'The Weather Almanack (on Scientific Principles, showing the State of the Weather for every Day of the Year 1838). By P. Murphy, Esq., M.N.S.,' i.e. member of no society. Under the date of 20 Jan. he said, 'Fair, prob. lowest deg. of winter temp.' By a happy chance this proved to be a remarkably cold day, the thermometer at sunrise standing at four degrees below zero. This circumstance raised his celebrity to a great height as a weather prophet, and the shop of his publishers, Messrs. Whittaker & Co., was besieged with customers, while the winter of 1837-8 became known as Murphy's winter. The 1838 almanac ran to forty-five editions, and the prophet made 3,000l., which he almost immediately lost in an unsuccessful speculation in corn. There was nothing very remarkable about the prediction, as the coldest day generally falls about 20 Jan. In the predictions throughout the year the forecasts were partly right on 168 days and decidedly wrong on 197 days. A popular song of the day, a parody on 'Lesbia has a beaming eye,' commenced 'Murphy has a weather eye.' The almanack was afterwards occasionally published, but its sale very much fell off after the 'nine days' wonder' was past, and ultimately it had a very limited circulation. Murphy, however, persevered in his pursuit, and was about bringing out an almanac for 1848, when he died at his lodgings, 108 Dorset Street, St. Bride's, London, on 1 Dec. 1847, aged 65.

His other works were: 1. ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of Miasmata, more particularly illustrated in the former and present state of the Campagna di Roma,’ 1825. 2. ‘Rudiments of the Primary Forces of Gravity, Magnetism, and Electricity in their Agency on the Heavenly Bodies,’ 1830. 3. ‘The Anatomy of the Seasons, Weather Guide Book, and Perpetual Companion to the Almanack,’ 1834. 4. ‘Meteorology considered in its connection with Astronomy, Climate, and the Geological Distribution of Animals and Plants, equally as with the Seasons and Changes of the Weather,’ 1836. 5. ‘Observation on the Laws and Cosmical Dispositions of Nature in the Solar System. With two Papers on Meteorology and Climate,’ 1843. The two papers were written for meetings of the Society of Scienziati Italiani at Padua, of which Murphy was elected a member. 6. ‘Weather Tables for the Year 1845,’ 1844. 7. ‘Astronomical Aphorisms or Theory of Nature, founded on the Immutable Basis of Meteoric Action,’ 1847, 2nd edit. 1847.

[Times, 7 Dec. 1847, p. 8; Illustr. London News, 11 Dec. 1847, p. 383; Gent. Mag. April 1848, p. 443; Chambers's Book of Days, 1864, i. 137; Notes and Queries, 1886, 7th ser. i. 70, 117; Fraser's Mag. 1838, xvii. 378–84.]

G. C. B.