New York: Ivison, Phinney, & Co., 1859-1860. 1st edition of FERREL’S 19th CENTURY “MAGNUM OPUS” PROPOSING THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE PHYSICAL THEORY OF THE ATMOSPHERE. Considered “the first really powerful intellect to focus sustained attention on meteorology,” the American meteorologist, William Ferrel here provides “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). In other words, Ferrel is the first to depict mathematically the influence of the various forces (such as gravity, rotation, and friction) upon the earth’s surface, as well as how those forces then impact atmospheric air currents and tidal currents in the ocean (Williams, Shy Genius).
The papers offered here were published in their entirety in seven chapters over these two separate volumes. Shortened versions of the first four chapters (edited for a non-scientific audience) were published in the American Journal of Science in 1861; the final three in 1882.
The eminent American meteorologist Cleveland Abbe never forgot first encountering Ferrel’s work. "It gave me at once the strong conviction that a successful attack had at last been made on the complex mechanics of the atmosphere," he wrote. "I have often said that the memoir [the work offered here] is to meteorology what the 'Principia' was to astronomy. The allusion was less extravagant than it might seem, for Ferrel was a celestial mechanic in the tradition of Pierre-Simon Laplace and Sir Isaac Newton. There was what Abbe called "an intellectual inheritance" (ibid).
Ferrel was at the forefront of an era in which science that was changing – and rapidly. “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” (Wenner, History of Physics). At the time, no meteorologist understood, navigated, or applied physics to mathematical weather forecasting better than did Ferrel.
Ferrel demonstrated the deflective force of the Earth’s rotation and its fundamental place in shaping the behavior of global winds and the currents of the ocean. In a work considered “remarkable for its clarity,” 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” (DSB).
Put another way, Ferrel’s “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” (Wiki).
Based firmly in mathematical analysis, Ferrel’s work “made explicit the notion of an inertial circle of motion on the earth and used it to explain the gyratory nature of storms… [He] 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).
Ferrel’s work includes many in-text illustrations. Item #1646
CONDITION: 2 volumes. 4to. Handsomely rebound in gilt-ruled green cloth boards over a black, gilt-lettered spine. Note: Runkle’s name appears on the spine because the journal is often referred to as Runkle’s Mathematical Monthly. Bright & clean throughout. Very good condition.