Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
The early years of the nineteenth century saw an intriguing yet little-known scientific advance catapult a shy young Quaker to the dizzy heights of fame. The Invention of Clouds tells the extraordinary story of an amateur meteorologist, Luke Howard, and his groundbreaking work to define what had hitherto been random and unknowable structures—clouds.
In December 1802, Luke Howard delivered a lecture that was to be a defining point in natural history and meteorology. He named the clouds, classifying them in terms that remain familiar to this day: cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and nimbus. This new and precise nomenclature sparked worldwide interest and captured the imaginations of some of the century's greatest figures in the fields of art, literature, and science. Goethe, Constable, and Coleridge were among those who came to revere Howard's vision of an aerial landscape. Legitimized by the elevation of this new classification and nomenclature, meteorology fast became a respectable science.
Although his work is still the basis of modern meteorology, Luke Howard himself has long been overlooked. Part history of science, part cultural excavation, The Invention of Clouds is a detailed and informative examination of Howard's life and achievements and introduces a new audience to the language of the skies.