Weather Fundamentals

Early Weather History

Which of America’s founding fathers were fascinated by meteorology?

Among his many other interests, ranging from agriculture to architecture, law, and politics, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was also fascinated by the weather. Jefferson was offended by the French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon’s (1707–1788) assertion that American’s were negatively impacted by their climate, making them somehow inferior to Europeans. To prove him wrong, Jefferson and his friend and fellow Founding Father, James Madison (1751–1836), decided to study the weather in earnest. Jefferson made daily observations from his Virginia home at Monticello from 1772 to 1778, and Madison followed his lead from 1784 to 1802. While it might seem painfully obvious today, it was Madison who broke with English logic that said temperature readings should be done indoors; he took the unheard of step of placing his thermometer outside. Today, universities are using Madison’s measurements of temperature and precipitation for comparative studies on climate change.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Weather Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App