FERREL’S 19th CENTURY “MAGNUM OPUS” PROPOSING THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE PHYSICAL THEORY OF THE ATMOSPHERE. Offered are two papers by the American meteorologist William Ferrel, “the Newton or Kepler of meteorology.”
“Transitioning from observational weather forecasting to mathematical weather forecasting required meteorologists to recognize that the laws of physics could apply to weather, discover the forces that drive wind movements, and apply the equations of physics to these forces and the resulting movements of air” (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection). In work considered “remarkable for its clarity,” Ferrel applied Laplace’s equations to his rediscovery of the Coriolis effect -- “the apparent deviation from straight line motion perceived by an observer in a rotating frame of reference” (ibid). Ferrel applied the Coriolis effect, in concert with the principles of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, to establish “the first general formulation of the equations of motion for a body moving with respect to the rotating earth and drew from them the consequences for atmospheric and oceanic circulation” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography, IV, 592). His work demonstrated that it is the tendency of rising warm air, as it rotates due to the Coriolis effect, to pull in air from more equatorial, warmer regions and transport it poleward. It is this rotation which creates the complex curvatures in the frontal systems separating the cooler Arctic/Antarctic air polewards from the warmer tropical air towards the equator” (Wikipedia).
The two documents offered here are in very good and near fine condition, both in original wrappers and housed together in a custom clamshell box: (1) A reprint (published in 1882 and the first so issued) of Ferrel’s original publications in 1859 and 1860 in an unknown journal run by a friend, Runkle’s Mathematical Monthly. We were able to find only institutionally held copy of the original, that in Observatoire de Paris. The few other institutionally held copies held (11 in total) were all of the 1882 publication offered here. (2) Published in 1861, “The Motions of Fluids and Solids on the Earth’s Surface” (Professional Papers of the Signal Service No. VIII pp. 1-51, 1882) is a shorter and less technical summary that is of import for a number of reasons, not least of which is because Ferrel’s work had initially been published in the obscure journal Runkle’s Mathematical Monthly in 1859 and 1860, few in the scientific community saw or knew of it. This 1861 publication “carried Ferrel’s “theory and its derivation to a wider audience” (DSB).
Based firmly in mathematical analysis, in 1858, “Ferrel made explicit the notion of an inertial circle of motion on the earth and used it to explain the gyratory nature of storms… [In the Runkle papers offered here,] Ferrel developed a general quantitative theory of relative motion on the earth’s surface and applied it to winds and currents… Now known as Ferrel’s law, [it states that] ‘if a body is moving in any direction, there is a force, arising from the earth’s rotation, which always deflects it to the right in the northern hemisphere, and to the left in the southern’” (ibid). Item #1328
CONDITION & DETAILS: Two journals in original wraps, housed in a custom 12.5 x 10 inch (Large 4to) clamshell case gilt-titled at the spine and on the front board. The 1882 publication measures 9.5 by 12 inches (4to); the 1861 journal, 9.5 x 6 inches (8vo). Each has an area in the case designed to house its specific dimensions. The American Journal of Science and Arts is in very good to near fine condition; the Professional Papers of the Signal Service is the same save for Ferrel's name having been underlined on the front wrap and some toning. The case itself is new.