In 1865 a broken Admiral Robert FitzRoy locked himself in his dressing room and cut his throat. His grand meteorological project had failed. Yet only a decade later, FitzRoy's storm-warning system and 'forecasts' would return, the model for what we use today.
In an age when a storm at sea was evidence of God's great wrath, nineteenth-century meteorologists had to fight against convention and religious dogma. But buoyed by the achievements of the Enlightenment a generation of mavericks set out to explain the secrets of the atmosphere and learned to predict the future. Among them were Luke Howard, the first to classify the clouds, Francis Beaufort who quantified the winds, James Glaisher, who explored the upper atmosphere in a hot-air balloon, Samuel Morse whose electric telegraph gave scientists the means by which to transmit weather warnings, and FitzRoy himself, master sailor, scientific pioneer and founder of the Met Office.
Reputations were built and shattered. Fractious debates raged over decades between scientists from London to Galway, Paris to New York. Explaining the atmosphere was one thing, but predicting what it was going to do seemed a step too far. In 1854, when a politician suggested to the Commons that Londoners might soon know the weather twenty-four hours in advance, the House roared with laughter. Peter Moore's exhilarating account navigates treacherous seas, rough winds and uncovers the obsession that drove these men to great invention and greater understanding.
Peter Moore is a writer, freelance journalist and lecturer. He teaches creative non-fiction at City University and lives in London. His first book, Damn His Blood, an acclaimed history of a rural murder in 1806, was published in 2012.
"Richly researched, exciting [...] It is both scientific and cultural history, of prizewinning potential and as fresh and exhilerating throughout as a strong sea breeze."
– Sunday Times
"Superbly researched and grippingly written [...] Moore is at least as interested in the personalities and their rivalries, and the sheer spendour and catastrophies of weather itself – storms and shipwrecks, heatwaves and floods (all vividly described) – as by the science. And he weaves it together, deftly picking up threads left dangling in earlier chapters, darting across continents, embracing swashbuckling sea captains and fastidious bureaucrats, penny-pinching politians and mad inventors, with as sharp an eye for eccentricity, absurdity and tragedy as for genius. The result is a panorama of the entire Victorian era."
– The Times
"Prepare for turbulence in this history of Britain's seminal contribution to weather forecasting"
"For illuminating a byway of scientific history that many scarcely knew existed we must thank Peter Moore, whose superbly researched an grippingly written book is more than a dusty account of early meteorologists"
– The Times
"The Weather Experiment is a genuinely gripping read and demonstrates how scientific ideas can come ahead of the time"
– Mail on Sunday
"The Weather Experiment is not the first book to have been written about FitzRoy [...] but Moore's achievement is to imbue him and his work with palpable narrative life, while surrounding him with a large supporting cast of contemporaries"
– The Times Literary Supplement