Detail map of Washington, District of Columbia, United States Overview map of Washington, District of Columbia, United States

A: Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Joseph Henry Organizes Sending Weather Information by Telegraph

Joseph Henry (1879)

Portrait of Joseph Henry by Henry Ulke (1821-1910). 

American physicist Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and a pioneer in telegraphic research, realized in 1847 that storms in the United States generally move from west to east. Henry wrote in the Smithsonian's 1847 annual report that "the extended lines of telegraph will furnish a ready means of warning the more northern and eastern observers to be on the watch for the first appearance of an advancing storm."

By 1849, Henry worked out an arrangement with a number of telegraph companies to allow free transmission of local weather data to the Smithsonian. He proposed to supply "the most important stations" with barometers and thermometers. By the end of the 1849 150 volunteers throughout the United States reported weather observations to the Smithsonian regularly by telegraph. This became the basis for the first national weather service where weather observations from distant points could be "rapidly" collected, plotted and analyzed at one location -- the beginnings of "surface weather analysis".

Timeline Themes