A brief history
On 3 April 1850, ten gentlemen assembled in the library of Hartwell House, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. According to the minutes of the meeting, they gathered "to form a society the objects of which should be the advancement and extension of meteorological science by determining the laws of climate and of meteorological phenomena in general". They called the society the British Meteorological Society and appointed as its president Samuel Charles Whitbread, a grandson of the founder of the famous brewing firm. The society they formed still exists and flourishes. It became The Meteorological Society in 1866, when it was incorporated by Royal Charter, and the Royal Meteorological Society in 1883, when Her Majesty Queen Victoria granted the privilege of adding 'Royal' to the title.
Besides Whitbread, those present at the meeting on 3 April 1850 were Dr John Lee, the owner of Hartwell House, the Reverend Samuel King of Latimer, near Chesham, the Reverend Joseph Bancroft Reade of Stone Vicarage, near Aylesbury, the Reverend Charles Lowndes of Hartwell Rectory, James Glaisher, Superintendent of the Magnetic and Meteorological Department of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, Edward Joseph Lowe of Highfield House, near Nottingham, Vincent Fasel of Stone, near Aylesbury, John Drew of Southampton and William Rutter of Haverstock Hill, north-west London. Mr Glaisher was appointed Honorary Secretary and Dr Lee Honorary Treasurer.
Hartwell House, 7 June 2000. The President for 1998-2000, Professor Brian Hoskins, unveils a framed notice about the Royal Meteorological Society and its foundation in the Library of Hartwell House on 3 April 1850.
The "advancement of meteorological science" remains the primary aim of the Royal Meteorological Society today, with "meteorological science" including climatology, physical oceanography and other related disciplines. Among its 3,500 members, the Society numbers not only professional meteorologists and other scientists but also people whose work is affected by the weather or climate and many who take an interest in the weather as a hobby. The Society advances and promotes meteorology through its journals and other publications, meetings and conferences, educational activities, professional accreditation and the award of grants, medals and prizes.
The British Meteorological Society was not the first meteorological society to be formed in the United Kingdom. On 15 October 1823, at the London Coffee House, a group of distinguished scientists founded the Meteorological Society of London. This society flourished for seven months and then, despite the initial enthusiasm and activity, languished until 1836, when it was revived, only to fail again in 1843. Five years later, another Meteorological Society of London was founded, but this, too, was shortlived, for, in the summer of 1850, its Council dissolved the Society and recommended the members to join the British Meteorological Society. Many of the books and papers of the Meteorological Societies of London were handed over to the British Meteorological Society in 1851 and have survived. They are now cared for in the National Meteorological Archive, along with papers and books of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1850 onwards. The Scottish Meteorological Society, founded in 1855, amalgamated with the Royal Meteorological Society in 1921.
Without the dedication and leadership of many distinguished meteorologists and other scientists, the Royal Meteorological Society would not have survived for a century and a half. The following is a list of those who have served the society as President. Pen portraits of many of them have been published in the journal Weather. The list gives the years these people served as President, along with the month and year the pen portrait was published. An asterisk indicates that the person is still alive.
Samuel Charles Whitbread FRS 1850-53; 1864 December 1997 George Leach 1853-55 March 2001 Dr John Lee FRS 1855-57 July 1996 Robert Stephenson MP FRS 1857-58 February 1995 Thomas Sopwith FRS 1859-60 - Nathaniel Beardmore MInstCE 1861-62 September 2000 Robert Dundas Thomson MD 1863-64 August 1998 Charles Brooke FRS 1865-66 January 1998 James Glaisher FRS 1867-68 November 1995 Charles Vincent Walker FRS 1869-70 May 1998 John William Tripe MD 1871-72 March 1996 Robert James Mann MD 1873-75 January 2001 Henry Storks Eaton MA 1876-77 May 1997 Charles Greaves 1878-79 September 2001 George James Symons FRS 1880-81; 1900 March 1993 Sir John Knox Laughton MA 1882-83 January 1999 Robert Henry Scott DSc FRS 1884-85 September 1994 William Ellis FRS 1886-87 - William Marcet MD FRS 1888-89 March 1997 Baldwin Latham MInstCE 1890-91 April 1997 C Theodore Williams MD FRCP 1892-93; 1900 December 1992 Richard Inwards 1894-95 August 1995 Edward Mawley VMH 1896-97 April 1998 Francis Campbell Bayard LLM 1898-99 October 1999 William Henry Dines FRS 1901-02 - Captain David W Barker Kt RNR 1903-04 December 1999 Richard Bentley 1905-06 - Hugh Robert Mill DSc LLD FRSE 1907-08 April 1994 Henry Mellish CB DL 1909-10 November 1996 Henry Newton Dickson DSc FRSE 1911-12 May 1995 Charles John Philip Cave JP 1913-14; 1924-25 October 1993 Sir Henry George Lyons FRS 1915-17 March 1998 Sir Napier Shaw ScD FRS 1918-19 March 1995 Reginald Hawthorn Hooker 1920-21 January 1995 Charles Chree ScD FRS 1922-23 June 1994 Sir Gilbert Walker CSI ScD FRS 1926-27 July 1997 Sir Richard Gregory DSc LLD 1928-29 July 1994 R G K Lempfert CBE MA FInstP 1930-31 September 1996 Sydney Chapman MA DSc FRS 1932-33 October 1994 Ernest Gold DSO MA FRS 1934-35 - Francis J W Whipple MA ScD 1936-37 September 1993 Sir Bernard A Keen DSc FRS 1938-39 November 1993 Sir George C Simpson KCB FRS 1940-41 October 1995 Sir David Brunt MA ScD FRS 1942-44 September 1992 Gordon Manley MA DSc 1945-46 August 1993 G M B Dobson CBE DSc FRS 1947-48 - Sir Robert Watson-Watt CB FRS 1949-51 November 1992 Sir Charles Normand CIE ScD 1951-53 January 1993 Sir Graham Sutton CBE DSc FRS 1953-55 - R C Sutcliffe OBE PhD FRS 1955-57 - P A Sheppard BSc FInstP FRS 1957-59 - J M Stagg CB OBE MA DSc 1959-61 May 1994 H L Penman OBE PhD FInstP FRS 1961-63 December 1994 J S Sawyer MA FRS 1963-65 - G D Robinson PhD FInstP 1965-67 February 1999 F K Hare PhD LLD FRSC 1967-68 - Sir John Mason CB DSc FRS 1968-70 * Frank Pasquill DSc FRS 1970-72 April 2000 Robert P Pearce PhD FRSE 1972-74 * Raymond Hide ScD FRS 1974-76 * Sir John Houghton DPhil FRS 1976-78 * John L Monteith PhD FRS 1978-80 * Philip Goldsmith MA 1980-82 * Henry Charnock CBE FRS 1982-84 - Andrew Gilchrist MA 1984-86 * Richard S Scorer PhD 1986-88 * Keith A Browning PhD FRS 1988-90 * Stephen A Thorpe PhD FRS 1990-92 * Paul Mason PhD FRS 1992-94 * John E Harries PhD 1994-96 * David J Carson PhD 1996-98 * Brian J Hoskins PhD FRS 1998-2000 * David M Burridge CBE PhD 2000-02 * Howard Cattle PhD 2002-04 * Chris Collier CMet FRMetS CEnv 2004-06 * Geraint Vaughan PhD 2006-present *
Pen portraits of the Presidents of the Meteorological Societies of London have also been published in Weather, as follows:
George Birkbeck MD 1823-39 December 1993 Lord Robert Grosvenor 1839-50 March 1994 Richard J Morrison (Zadkiel) 1848-50 February 1994
An article about the Meteorological Societies of London was published by
J M Walker in Weather
in November 1993 (Volume 48, pp.364-372). A brief history of the Royal Meteorological
Society was published by R A S Ratcliffe in Weather
in July 1978 (Volume 33, pp.261-268). In conjunction with the History Group
of the Society, Weather is
publishing a series of profiles of meteorologists
who were notable but never served as President of the Society or gained election
to Fellowship of the Royal Society.
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An article about the Meteorological Societies of London was published by J M Walker in Weather in November 1993 (Volume 48, pp.364-372). A brief history of the Royal Meteorological Society was published by R A S Ratcliffe in Weather in July 1978 (Volume 33, pp.261-268).
In conjunction with the History Group of the Society, Weather is publishing a series of profiles of meteorologists who were notable but never served as President of the Society or gained election to Fellowship of the Royal Society.