The Invention of Clouds
BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize
An extraordinary yet little-known scientific advance occurred in the opening years of the nineteenth century when a young amateur meteorologist, Luke Howard, gave the clouds the names by which they are known to this day. By creating a language to define structures that had, up to then, been considered random and unknowable, Howard revolutionized the science of meteorology and earned the admiration of his leading contemporaries in art, literature and science.
Richard Hamblyn charts Howard’s life from obscurity to international fame, and back to obscurity once more. He recreates the period’s intoxicating atmosphere of scientific discovery, and shows how this provided inspiration for figures such as Goethe, Shelley and Constable. Offering rich insights into the nature of celebrity, the close relationship between the sciences and the arts, and the excitement generated by new ideas, The Invention of Clouds is an enthralling work of social and scientific history.