Which Chinese scholar first hypothesized about climate change?

In the eleventh century c.e. Chinese writer Shen Kuo (1031-1095) noticed that bamboo plants were buried in the ground near Shanbei. This region was far too northerly for bamboo to grow in Shen's time, and he therefore reasoned that the climate there had once been very different.

How was Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham important to meteorology?

Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn (965-c. 1039) was a brilliant scientist in many areas, including engineering, physics, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, anatomy, medicine, philosophy, psychology, and more. He has been called the "Father of Modern Optics" and the "Founder of Experimental Physics," attesting to his many accomplishments. His seven-volume Book of Optics (1011-1021) explained principles with applications ranging from ophthalmology to astronomy to meteorology. As it pertains to meteorology, his work is important for explaining such concepts as reflection, refraction, transparency, translucence, radiancy, and optical illusions (e.g., mirages). He made contributions to the study of rainbows and atmospheric density.

What is a thermoscope and who invented it?

The history of the thermometer goes back to the ancient Greeks. It is not known exactly who invented a working thermometer, but the earliest record has Philo of Byzantium creating what was called a "thermoscope" back in the second century b.c.e. Similarly crude devices using the expansion of water due to temperature were used throughout the centuries. The prolific Renaissance inventor and artist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) improved the air thermoscope in 1593. The thermoscope he created uses a different approach to measuring temperatures than the thermometer. Instead of containing a fluid, such as mercury, that is sensitive to changes in heat and cold, the thermoscope suspends several objects within a transparent tube.

Did the ancient Mayans study the weather?

Many people are familiar with the Mayans' interest in calendars and astronomy, but they were also fascinated by the weather. Sometime between 1200 and 1400 c.e. they constructed a lighthouse in what is now Cozumel, Mexico, called the "Tumba del Caracol." The Mayans put candles in the lighthouse, which served the traditional function of warning ships that they were close to land. In addition, at the top of this lighthouse, the clever Mayans strategically placed a variety of seashells. Depending on wind speed and direction, the shells would whistle at different pitches. Depending on which shells were whistling and at what pitch—and their knowledge of what conditions produced storms—the Mayans are said to have been able to predict storms approaching from the Caribbean.

The objects are small glass spheres containing various amounts of liquid and gas and also attached to a piece of metal that is suspended from each one. These floats have varying levels of buoyancy, which could be finely adjusted further by changing the size of the piece of metal attached. Galileo understood that water's density changed with temperature, and so the buoys (distinguished by the color of the dyed fluid inside them) would rise or fall within the tube accordingly. You could tell the temperature based on which buoys were floating and which ones had sunk to the bottom of the tube. In 1610, Galileo replaced the water in the tube with wine (alcohol). Galileo's friend Santorio Santorio (1561-1636) adapted the thermometer to measure body temperature in his medical practice).

Who invented the modern thermometer?

Ferdinand II de Medici (1610-1670), Grand Duke of Tuscany, was also an accomplished physicist. He is generally credited with inventing the first modern thermometer in 1641. It consisted of a sealed tube containing alcohol. This type of thermometer was called a "spirit" thermometer, possibly because alcoholic drinks are sometimes referred to as spirits. Today, alcohol thermometers are still referred to by this quaint label. Ferdinand II improved on his design in 1654; ten years later, Robert Hooke (1635-1703) adapted the duke's thermometer, standardizing the measurements in a more logical way (the duke had arbitrarily divided his thermometer into 50 degrees), using the freezing and boiling points of water as standards.

 
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