James Rodger Fleming

Inventing Atmospheric Sciences

Bjerknes, Rossby, Wexler, and the Foundations of Modern Meteorology

MIT Press 2016

New Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ScienceNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in TechnologyNew Books Network August 26, 2016 Carla Nappi

This is a book about the future – the historical future as three interconnected generations of atmospheric researchers experienced it and envisioned it in...

This is a book about the future – the historical future as three interconnected generations of atmospheric researchers experienced it and envisioned it in the first part of the twentieth century.

James Rodger Fleming’s new book is a big picture history of atmospheric science that follows the lives and careers of three men who worked at the center of meteorological research in roughly the first half of the 20thcentury: Vilhelm Bjerknes, Carl-Gustav Rossby, and Harry Wexler. Though it takes these three figures as orienting tools, Inventing Atmospheric Science: Bjerknes, Rossby, Wexler, and the Foundations of Modern Meteorology (MIT Press, 2016) this is not a biography of three lone geniuses: Fleming is careful to show that the emergence of atmospheric science was a team effort and the result of work by many people in different disciplines and areas. Fleming’s use of archival materials allows readers to appreciate the significance and roles of otherwise-overlooked or ignored historical figures, including Anne Louise Beck (who we discuss in the course of the podcast). Inventing Atmospheric Science weaves together the histories of technology, mathematics, hydrodynamics, the aerospace industry, global pollution, climatology, chaos theory, the US Weather Bureau, and much more into a clear and engaging story thats also a pleasure to read.

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