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New Star of the Republic Museum Exhibit Describes the History Behind Weather Forecasting

Star of the Republic Museum administered by Blinn College is headed back to the 1800s in its latest exhibit, “Weather Wisdom: Forecasting in the 19th Century.”

The exhibit, which runs from March 1 through February 2015, describes the way scientific discoveries helped make weather forecasting widely available across the United States. With new inventions, farmers, sailors, merchants and traders no longer had to rely on folklore to determine forecasts, like “when bees stay close to the hive, rain is coming” or “when ladybugs swarm, expect it to warm.”
“This is a really great exhibit because we’ve obtained weather instruments that were used back in the mid-19th century,” said Shawn Carlson, curator of collections and exhibits. “A lot of people have never seen how weather was measured back then.”

Among the featured items are a weathervane, which helps predict approaching storms and records changing wind direction; a banjo barometer, which measures atmospheric pressure; and a hygrometer, which measures the amount of moisture in the air.

The earliest days of weather forecasting dates back to 340 B.C., when Greek philosopher Aristotle began recording his observations. By the mid-1400s, thermometers, barometers and hygrometers were commonly used, and with the invention of the telegraph in 1844, weather data began to be widely distributed to largely populated cities across the United States.

In 1846, Joseph Henry, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, recruited farmers across the country to record and submit weather reports. So much data was collected that by 1891 the National Weather Service was established.

“It really took an entity like the Smithsonian to compile so much data,” Carlson said. “They laid the groundwork for the weather forecasting we have today.”

Star of the Republic Museum is located at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site off state Highway 105. It was created by the Texas Legislature and is administered by Blinn College as a cultural and educational institution. Daily museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 936-878-2461 or visit: www.starmuseum.org.


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