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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Abbe, Cleveland

ABBE, Cleveland, American meterologist: b. New York city, 3 Dec. 1838; d. Chevy Chase, Md., 28 Oct. 1916. His education was received at the New York Free Academy, now the College of the City of New York, where he made a record in mathematical and mathematico-physical science. He was graduated in 1857 and then taught mathematics at the Trinity Latin School for a year. Later he studied astronomy under Professor Brünow at the University of Michigan. A year afterward he removed to Cambridge where he spent four years with Dr. B. A. Gould and did telegraphic longitude work for the United States Coast Survey. During 1865–66 Professor Abbe studied at the Observatory of Poulkova, Russia, then under the direction of the illustrious Otto Struve, and finally, in 1867, he returned to this country and became connected with the National Observatory in Washington. He was immediately appointed Director of the Cincinnati Observatory. Professor Abbe took charge there in May 1868 and immediately became prominent through his offer to the Chamber of Commerce to make daily predictions of the weather for the benefit of the citizens. From a scientific standpoint this was then unheard of. However, it was soon seen that he had “inside information” on the all-important subject, the weather, and during September 1869 his offer was accepted, and the daily publication of weather bulletins and “probabilities” began.

His weather service met with instant success, and soon his friends had a resolution introduced into Congress providing for the establishment of a national bureau of storm warnings for the benefit of commerce, which bureau was opened in February 1870 with Gen. A. J. Myer, Chief Signal Officer of the Army, in charge. He immediately adopted all Professor Abbe's systems and methods, and in January 1871 invited him to come to Washington as his scientific assistant. A month later Professor Abbe commenced the regular tri-daily issue of “probabilities,” which he kept up himself until he could train others to do the work correctly. These forecasts were published all over the country anonymously as official documents, and earned for Professor Abbe the cognomen of “Old Prob.” From that time the weather service was extended each year until the United States Weather Bureau came to rank first among such service the world over, and Professor Abbe came to be regarded as the world's foremost meteorologist. It was largely due to his initiative that several successful advances were made in the service, such as ocean meteorology, in introduction of uniform standard time, and a great many other steps were taken. Professor Abbe continued in the Government service even when well past 70 years of age. He continued to edit the Monthly Weather Review and make many other contributions to meteorological science. In addition, he was editor of the Bulletin of the Mount Weather Observatory from 1909, professor of meteorology at Washington University from 1886, and lecturer on meteorology at Johns Hopkins University from 1896. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of many other foreign and domestic scientific bodies.

One of Professor Abbe's most noteworthy achievements was his ‘Report on Standard Time’ (1879), which started the agitation that resulted in the establishment of the modern standard hour meridians from Greenwich. He was the author of a number of books on meteorological subjects, including ‘Meteorological Apparatus and Methods’ (1887); ‘Studies for Methods in Storm and Weather Predictions’ (1889); ‘Mechanics of the Earths' Atmosphere’ (Vol. I, 1891; Vol II, 1909); ‘The Altitude of the Aurora’ (1896); ‘Physical Basis of Long-Range Forecasting’ (1902); ‘Solar Spots and Terrestrial Temperature,’ and ‘Atmospheric Radiation.’