Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/307

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JANUARY, 1880.


By Professor T. B. MAURY.

THE "weather" is that mystic word which sums up the physical influences most affecting the human frame for good or ill. The splendid, ever-varying panorama of the sky, the benign mutations of the seasons, the immense pulsations of the atmosphere furnished, however, for ages, themes for the poet rather than for the philosopher. In the presence of its tremendous though cloud-veiled forces, as the high priest of old on the entrance of the sanctuary, we tread with awed footstep. From time immemorial its phenomena have engaged the daily and deepest attention of men; and the ever-popular, ever-compulsory study of their changes, in the language of all civilized nations, has been called "meteorology," which literally means "the science of the sublime." "Distance and time," says the physical geographer Ansted, "seem annihilated when we watch the action of these mysterious influences, and we may almost recognize the reality of an existence unhampered by natural impediments when we find an instantaneous response of our innermost senses to a material stimulus applied within the burning atmosphere of the sun." But the overmastering interest and awe, awakened by the terrestrial atmosphere, through which this stimulus reaches us, are intensified by the consciousness that upon it we depend for vital breath, and that it is the medium through which an invisible hand sweeps every chord of humanity.

It is to that grand and systematic investigation of this physical agent, which has recently been commenced by the concert of the nations, in a system of world-wide "Simultaneous" observations, known as The International Weather-Service—to its history, methods, and utilities—we would now direct the reader's indulgent attention. Be-