Waters of the World: The Story of the Scientists Who Unraveled the Mysteries of Our Oceans, Atmosphere, and Ice Sheets and Made the Planet Whole

Univ. of Chicago. Oct. 2019. 368p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226507705. $30. SCI
British science historian Dry (The Newton Papers: The Strange) delves into the work of scientists and explorers who were key in developing the still fairly new (her subjects were born between 1819 and 1923) discipline of climate science using a biographical approach. Dry focuses on eccentric Victorian scientist and glacier adventurer John Tyndall, who looked at water as the vehicle for climate. The author’s lyrical discussion of Charles Piazzi Smyth, one of the first to study clouds deeply, brings in both literary and historical allusions. Dry notes that computer pioneer Charles Babbage performed some study of climate aspects as well, and also covers how the advent of aviation seriously advanced climatology, as researchers such as Joanne and Herbert Riehl used aircraft to make observations of hurricanes and other natural phenomena. Near the end of the book is a fascinating look at meteorologist France Bretherton’s now famous social process diagram of systems underpinning human influence on global climate change.
VERDICT Characterized by strong storytelling within a scholarly framework, this book will appeal to readers interested in how science is performed and accomplished, and anyone curious about Earth’s changing climate.

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