WMH Timeline

James Pollard Espy - The Storm King

James Pollard Espy (or “The Storm King”) (May 9 1785 – January 24 1860) was a U.S. meteorologist who proposed burning forests on the west coast of the United States of America to increase rainfall on the east coast. Espy developed a convection theory of storms, explaining it in 1836 before the American Philosophical Society and in 1840 before the French Académie des Sciences and the British Royal Society. His theory was published in 1840 as The Philosophy of Storms.

Besides his explanation and proofs of this theory. Prof. Espy presented to the British Association a paper on “Four Fluctuations of the Barometer.” The theory was more fully elaborated in “The Philosophy of Storms,” which was published in a large octavo volume by Little, Brown & Co., Boston, in 1841, and was re-enforced by detailed descriptions of a large number of storms occurring on the land and the ocean, the course of which the author had been able to follow and study with considerable accuracy. It also contained his answers to the citicisms which had been made against his theory in the British Association and elsewhere by prominent men of science and rival meteorologists. In it, furthermore, he defended his theory that storms could be produced by large fires making local disturbances in the equilibrium of temperature, whence follow ascending currents, cloud and rain. He spent much effort in trying to secure an experimental demonstration of this scheme, and made unsuccessful petitions to Congress and the Legislature of Pennsylvania for appropriations to enable him to carry them out on an adequate scale.


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