By. W.J. Humphreys
Cleveland Abbe’s influence on the progress of pure science
and its application to the
public welfare was so varied and so great as to make it important
that we know who he was, the conditions under which he worked,
and what he accomplished.
portion of Professor Abbe’s genealogy, enough perhaps
for the present purpose, is briefly as follows, in direct descent.
And here, at the very beginning of this sketch, I must acknowledge
my indebtedness to Abbe’s patient labors, for this summary
is gathered from his posthumous book, the Abbe-Abbey Genealogy,
a monumental work that for nearly 60 years was his absorbing
recreation and hobby.
John Abbe, born in central England about 1613, came to America
on the Bonaventure in 1635 and settled first at Salem, mass.,
but soon moved to Wenham, near by, when that town was established.
Samuel Abbe, who in 1692 was among those in Salem opposing the
fanatical persecutions for witchcraft.
Ebenezer Abbe, of Windham, Conn., spoke for the community in
1717 to the Assembly in a petition that property taxes be applied
to the establishment of their church.
Joshua Abbe, of North Windham, conn., was a large land-owner,
about 1740, and a strong religious leader of a Baptist sect
that became known as Abbeites.
Phineas Abbe, a citizen of Windham Township, Conn., had for
a time during the Revolutionary War the custody of some English
Moses Cleveland Abbe married Talitha Waldo, a descendant of
prominent civil and military colonial officers.
George Waldo Abbe, deacon in the Madison Avenue Baptist Church
of New York, merchant and philanthropist, married Charlotte
Colgate, who came of a line of Dissenters registered at Leden
Cleveland Abbe, 1838-1916, subject of this sketch.
Walter, 1841-, for many years head chemist of the Atlantic White
William, 1843-1879, died from after-effects of a wound received
Charles, 1849-1917, inventor, and for some years an assistant
examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.
Robert, 1851-, eminent surgeon in New York.
1853-, married Hubert Howson of New York.
Harriet, 1855-, single, New York.
Cleveland Abbe, Jr., 1872-, meteorologist and editor of the
Monthly Weather Review.
Truman Abbe, 1873-, surgeon, Washington, D.C.
William Abbe, 1877-, patent attorney, New York.
Several children: of Cleveland, one son; Truman, two sons and
two daughters; William, three sons and three daughters.
Professor Cleveland Abbe was born on Madison street, New York
City, December 3, 1838, and died at his home in Chevy Chase,
Md., October 28, 1916, from effects incident to the malignant
degeneration of a mole, which had rapidly become so extensive
as to prevent his resting comfortably in other than one position.
For more than a year he had also been afflicted with partial
paralysis of the right side, but this, from which he had largely
recovered, never in any wise affected either his mind or his
cheery hopeful disposition nor, apparently, at all hastened
Abbe’s preliminary education was obtained, first, in private
schools and, later, in the David B. Scott grammar School, No.
40, on 20th street, New York. His academic training was acquired
at the New York Free Academy, now the College of the City of
New York, which he entered in1851, and from which he was graduated
with distinction, obtaining the degree B.A. in1857 and M.A.
this formal education was abundantly supplemented by extensive
reading on all manner of subjects. Nor did he ever lose his
interest in every branch of human knowledge, nor cease to read,
or at least desire to read, everything printed that by any chance
could be worth reading. In reference to this characteristic
an admiring friend, writing of him as he knew him in his later
the first I was impressed with his broad interests, extending
not only outside of meteorology and astronomy to the other sciences,
but to philosophy, art, and literature. His knowledge was very
broad; his reading comprehensive. I remember, when living at
his home, seeing him very early in the morning sitting in his
library reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. He told me that
he was reading it through consecutively.”
During his school days he had the advantage of spending his
summer vacations in the country with his grandfather, Moses
Cleveland Abbe, near Windham, Conn. On these occasions the future
meteorologist, it is said, sometimes found it more pleasant
to loll in the shade and contemplate on the beauty and mysteries
of the floating clouds than to help his worthy ancestor wit
the exacting duties of the farm. But the youthful dreamer was
ever subject to the old gentleman’s wholesome admonition
to the effect that “boys that don’t work don’t
eat,” and so it happened that these summer vacations furnished
both healthful exercise and abundant opportunity to get acquainted
with many natural phenomena of absorbing interest.
in his life, indeed when he was only eight years old, there
happened a trivial occurrence which perhaps should be recorded,
as it seems to have had an important influence on his entire
intellectual career. This was the gift to him by his mother
of “Smellie’s Philosophy of nature,” a remarkable
book by the editor and in great part author of the first edition
of the Encyclopedia Britannica. This he pored over as a boy,
kept sacred in his library throughout the whole of his active
career, and so frequently and feelingly alluded to during his
last illness that in loving tenderness it was placed in his
hands as a fit companion during his long rest beneath the oaks
and the roses of beautiful Rock Creek Cemetery.
Abbe was twice married and on each occasion most happily. His
first marriage, May 10, 1870, was to Miss Frances Martha Neal,
daughter of David Neal of Cincinnati. Practically all their
wedded life, terminated by death on July 24, 1908, was spent
in that historic old mansion, once (1817) the “White House,”
2017 I Street N.W., Washington, D.C. which they owned, where
they entertained their numerous scientific and other friends,
and where, dearest of all to them, they reared with every thoughtful
care their three sons, Cleveland, Jr., Truman, and William.
second marriage, April 12, 1909, was to Miss Margaret Augusta
Percival, of Basseterre, St. Christopher, B.W.I., under whose
constant care and unfailing devotion the remainder of his useful
life was most happily spent.
religion Professor Abbe was always devout and sincere, and saw
only the good in every Christian creed. Though a member of the
Baptist Church from the age of 15, and devoted to its earnest
simplicity, he nevertheless loved the beautiful ritual of the
Episcopal church, in which, especially during his later years
and in company with his second wife, he frequently found inspiration
and comfort. To him form in religious worship, apart from its
aesthetic appeal, was of small matter, so long as the sincerity
and the substance were the same.
already stated, Professor Abbe was graduated from the New York
Free Academy (College of the City of New York) in 1857. During
1857-‘58 he was tutor of mathematics, a subject of which
he was very fond, in Trinity Latin School, New York. The following
year, 1859, he was an assistant professor of Engineering in
the Michigan Agricultural college; and later, 1859-‘60,
tutor in Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he
found in Professor Brunnow an inspiring instructor in Astronomy,
the Science whose marvelous revelations had, above all others,
aroused and directed his youth ful aspirations.
the close of his year at Ann Arbor stern duties arose, and Abbe
responded in April, 1860, to Lincoln’s first call for
volunteers. For a few weeks he was tried out at a recruiting
camp, but finally, to his severe disappointment, rejected because
of excessive myopia, an affection that debarred him from youthful
games, forbade him a soldier’s service, and all his life
long restricted his pleasures and limited his opportunities.
Though rejected as a soldier he nevertheless served his country
during the years 1860-‘64 by assisting Dr. B.A. Gould
at Cambridge, Mass., in the telegraphic longitude work of the
United States Coast Survey, Presumably it was his practical
work with Dr. Gould that led to his spending the next two years,
1865-‘66, as a guest or supernumerary astronomer at the
Observatory of Pulkova, near Petrograd, noted for its contributions
to applied astronomy, and then under the direction of the famous
Otto Struve. Here he found not only congenial work but also
pleasant companions and the good cheer of warm hospitality.
In this happy atmosphere his sympathetic nature found such peace
and content as to cause him always to remember Pulkova as a
On his return to the United States Professor Abbe accepted,
in 1867, the position of aid in the U.S. Naval Observatory;
but shortly afterwards, on February 1, 1868, assumed the responsible
duties of director of the Cincinnati Observatory, to which he
began giving his entire time on the 1st of June. The inclusiveness
of his plans on taking charge of this observatory was set forth
in his inaugural report, June 30, 1868, to the Board of Control,
in which he says:
the director be sustained in the general endeavor to make the
observatory useful, he would propose to extend the field of
activity of the observatory so as to embrace, on the one hand,
scientific astronomy, meteorology, and magnetism, and, on the
other, the application of these sciences to geography and geodesy,
to storm predictions, and to the wants of the citizen and the
generalized plan he then elaborated into a scheme, magnificent
in scope and noble in purpose, but out of all possible proportion
to a one–man observatory whose chief function hitherto
had been that of entertaining the public. His disposition always
was so hopeful that, apparently, he seldom took into consideration
such obstructive factors as lack of time or want of opportunity.
But if, perhaps, this accounts for his beginning some things
that were never completed, it doubtless, on the other hand,
also accounts for the completion of many things that otherwise
might never have been begun.
his directorship of the Cincinnati Observatory, however, Professor
Abbe’s active interests, in spite of his all-inclusive
program, soon turned more and more to meteorology, and especially
to that eminently useful application of it by which warnings
may be given of approaching storms. He was much interested in
the fact that telegraphic circuits were then generally made
up so as, presumably, to be least disturbed by storms as indicated
by the morning reports from many stations, of the weather, height
of the barometer and direction of the wind. This demonstration
of the value and practical use of weather predictions aroused
in him an impatient desire, born of earnest conviction, that
the great benefits of storm and flood warnings be extended to
the entire public and all its industries. Accordingly, on July
29, 1868, he addressed the following letter to the president
of the Cincinnati chamber of Commerce:
John A. Gano,
President, Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
“Dear sir: I take the liberty of bringing to your attention,
and through you to that of the Associated Press, a plan of operations
looking to a system of storm warnings such as will, I believe,
be highly appreciated by the public.
cannot have escaped your notice that during the past 20 years
very many endeavors have been made by various nations to utilize
the science of meteorology. From the Paris Observatory daily
bulletins are published showing the state of the weather in
western Europe. In England storm warnings are published many
hours in advance and sent to the ports that are threatened.
great value of such storm warnings long ago suggested the importance
of the study of the phenomena of our own climate, and these
labors have met with commensurate success. But such endeavors
must be long continued and not spasmodic, and in view of their
importance I take the liberty of suggesting a simple plan by
which the Associated Press may contribute much towards the progress
of the science of meteorology as well as towards its utilization.
Cincinnati Observatory, because of its central position with
reference to the railroad and the telegraph systems of our country,
may with special propriety be made the central station for meteorological
dispatches from all parts of the country. The newspapers daily
publish such dispatches from ten to fifty stations, and it is
suggested that if the Associated press will substitute for these
far more accurate and valuable observations of the trained meteorological
observers stationed all over the country, and will forward them
to this observatory, we will submit them to a careful discussion,
and will within a few hours return them systematically arranged
and condensed to the Associated Press. In this shape they will
be of increased value to all who consult them. We shall, moreover,
ourselves enter these observations upon an appropriate manuscript
chart, and propose that when we send the daily digest of the
weather to the Associated Press we accompany it with such general
predictions of the weather for the next two days as we may seem
authorized to venture upon.
seems certain that, at least in the case of a great storm, we
may arrive at a greater degree of certainty in these predictions
than is attained in England and France, where only three-tenths
of the predictions are verified.
a system as we propose would, it is believed, powerfully contribute
to advance science and practical meteorology.
have received promise of the hearty cooperation of the observers
of the Smithsonian Institution and of the army in case the systematic
daily publication of good observations and storm warnings is
render these meteorological reports as simple and brief as possible
consistent with accuracy, a series of blanks will be issued
to each observer, who will each day at an appointed minute (8
a.m. Cincinnati mean time) record the following data:
Barometer reduced to 2 degrees and to a common standard.
“b. Temperature of the free air.
“c. Amount of moisture in the free air.
“d. Direction and force of the surface wind.
“e. Quantity of lower clouds, kind, and direction of motion.
“f. Quantity of upper clouds, kind, and direction of motion.
“g. Amount of rain or snow during the past 24 hours.
“h. Condition of the atmosphere (clear, hazy, foggy, etc.).
instructions will be given to the observers by which the dispatches
from each will average twenty or twenty-five numbers or letters.
Observers of the requisite experience can readily be found in
all desired localities. They should be distributed widely over
the country. If not found at any desirable place, then the telegraph
office at that point will be supplied with the proper instruments,
and some employee of the company instructed in their use, the
company being responsible to the extent of $100.00 for the value
of the instruments. The observers will send their blanks to
the nearest telegraph office addressed to the ‘Cincinnati
Observatory,’ and we must receive them all at the Cincinnati
office of the Western Union Telegraph by 12 o’clock noon.
Should there be no communication with any stations, we are to
be informed of the fact, and the delayed dispatches are to be
forwarded at the earliest opportunity. These dispatches are
to remain and be the property of the Cincinnati Observatory.
The observers will furnish their observations gratis, receiving
in return a copy of the daily bulletin or summary in a form
convenient for preservation.
daily digest and the weather predictions are to be furnished
by the Cincinnati Observatory gratis to the Associated Press
and to such institutions as unite with us in our undertaking.
At least 100 stations ought to be thus occupied and report daily.
If the Associated Press will assume the expense of 50 daily
dispatches, it will not be difficult for us to secure the cooperation
of other interested parties who will afford the means of largely
increasing the number of daily dispatches.
that this or some improved plan may commend itself to you attention,
“I remain very respectfully yours,
“(Signed) Cleveland Abbe,
“Director Cincinnati Observatory.”
After much consideration of this proposition Mr. Gano requested
Professor Abbe to send him a second letter that could be presented
to the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. The following is a copy
of the “rough notes” of the second letter, and Fig.
I is from a photographic copy of the sketch referred to, which,
however, is not in Professor Abbe’s handwriting:
Observatory, May 7, 1869.
“John A. Gano, Esq.,
President, Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce:
the changes in the weather have so important a connection with
many branches of business, and especially with agriculture and
navigation, it has by many been considered very desirable that
the science of meteorology should be utilized by attempting
to draw therefrom some predictions as to the state of the weather
in the future. In order to meet this want, I propose to inaugurate
such a system by publishing in the daily papers a wether bulletin
which shall give the probable state of the weather and river
for Cincinnati and vicinity one or two days in advance.
predictions will be based upon a system of telegraphic dispatches
received from proper observers stationed at various distances
from the city, and the accuracy of the predictions, etc., will
increase from month to month and year to year, in proportion
as we are able to increase the number of our stations. For many
years a system of storm predictions has been kept up in France
and England, and this has, during the past three years, been
extended with great success to India. This system is under the
special care of the British Board of trade, and is recognized
as of eminent usefulness, the predictions failing only in a
small percentage of the cases. As Cincinnati is very favorably
situated with respect to the proposed outlying stations, it
si most probably that 90 per cent of our weather predictions
will be verified. It is thus evident that we do not propose
to guess at the weather, but (leaving that to the almanac makers)
we shall be able to assert with confidence the nature of the
weather for one, two, or four days in advance, as well as the
stand of the water in the river.
expense of the proposed system will arise in the first place
from the furnishing of the stations with instruments and the
cost of the telegraphic dispatches, and again in them method
of publishing the predictions. As to the former, the furnishings
for the stations, in order to inaugurate the system, will be
$500; the telegraphic dispatches, per year (365 x 10, at 25
cents), $900; the total will not exceed $750 or $1000.
the Chamber of Commerce support this undertaking, it would be
very proper that besides the publication in the morning papers
there should be hung up in the Exchange a chart of the country,
showing at a gland the condition of the weather at a given moment.”
This copy is without signature being attached. A notation by
Professor Abbe says:
original draft adds a sketch of twenty stations, and a sample
form of telegraphic dispatches, estimated to not exceed twenty-five
words, but I am not sure that these were sent to Mr. Gano in
this letter. They were submitted to the committee of the Chamber
of Commerce a few days afterwards.”
The immediate results of this appeal are best told by the following
quotation from Professor Abbe’s report of June 18, 1870,
to the Board of Control of the Cincinnati Observatory:
importance of anticipating the changes in the weather, especially
storms or droughts, was alluded to in my report of June, 1868.
This subject having been brought by myself to the attention
of the Chamber of Commerce of this city, that body, in June
last , authorized me to organize a system of daily weather
reports and storm predictions. Experienced observers at distant
points offered their gratuitous cooperation. The Western Union
Telegraph Company offered the use of their line at a nominal
price. The bulletin began to be issued September 1, in manuscript
form, for the special use of the Chamber of Commerce, and began
to be printed a week later as independent publication.
bulletin was supported for three months, as at first agreed
on, by the Chamber of Commerce; its conduct then passed entirely
into the hand of the observatory, and has thus continued until
the past month. The independent publication of the bulletin
was, however, discontinued, and its has, since December 1, only
appeared in the morning papers. The daily compilation of this
bulletin for the newspapers was undertaken two weeks ago by
the Cincinnati office of the Western Union Telegraph Company,
and will so continue, thus relieving the observatory of all
February the manager of the Cincinnati office undertook the
publication of a daily weather chart [Fig. 2 is a copy of
the chart for February 28, 1870], and the favor that this
has met with insures its continuation in the future. The Daily
Weather Bulletin and Chart are, therefore, now supported solely
by the Western Union Telegraph Company, and must be considered
as a very important contribution to meteorology. It would have
been highly to the credit of the observatory could these publications
have been maintained in its own name; but this was impossible,
owing to the want of funds and assistants.”
The bulletins for September, October, and November, 1869, were
prepared by Professor Abbe, written on manifold paper by clerks
in the Western Union Office and delivered by the messengers,
and known as “greasers.”
Professor Abbe’s justifiable enthusiasm over his success
in foretelling the coming of storms may be inferred from a letter
to his father in which he said: “I have started that which
the country will not willingly let die.”
This statement did not refer, of course, to the collection of
meteorological data, nor to the construction from telegraphic
reports of maps showing the current state of the weather over
the country, both of which had been done by the Smithsonian
Institution under the direction of Joseph Henry some 20 years
earlier, but rather to the systematic daily forecast from such
maps of the coming weather. And his estimate was correct, for
the time was so ripe for a National Weather Service that less
than six months after the first Bulletin of the Cincinnati Observatory
was issued, the Federal Government through a Congressional resolution
signed by the President February 9, 1870, authorized the creation
of a Weather Service, and placed it under the immediate direction
of the Signal Service.
On putting this law into operation the Secretary of War sought
the services of Prof. I.A. Lapham of Milwaukee, Cleveland Abbe,
then of Cincinnati, and others. Professor Lapham, through his
persistent advocacy of storm warnings for the benefit of commerce
on the Great Lakes, had been influential in securing the Federal
action that established a National Weather Service. Therefore,
and also because of his knowledge of the subject, he was offered
the position of Assistant to the Chief Signal Officer at Washington.
Private considerations, however, kept him from coming to Washington,
but he did consent to act for a time in this capacity at Chicago.
Abbe, the only man in the country who, before, the establishment
of this Service, had had experience in practical weather forecasting
for the public, was then appealed to, and finally consented
to serve in the position Lapham and been unable to accept, beginning
on January 3, 1871. At first he had expected to resign at the
end of three years, the term of his appointment, but instead
of doing so he continued in this Service without interruption,
through various trying circumstances, until June 4, 1915, when
owing to ill health, he took a year’s furlough. Being
still unable to assume regular duties, he resigned on August
3, 1916. During about half of this time, or from August, 1893,
his principal work had been the extremely useful and congenial
one of editing the meteorological journals of the Weather Bureau-the
Monthly Weather Review and the Mount Weather Bulletin.
The following delightful story of Abbe’s connection with
the Weather Bureau during its formative period has been put
at my disposal by Prof. T.C. Mendenhall. It is given in its
entirety because of its general interest, and also because it
covers the most active period of Professor Abbe’s career:
the years of my acquaintance with Professor Abbe were nearly
fifty in all, my intimate association with him began about a
third of a century ago. It was in the ‘early eighties’
of the last century when the Weather Bureau was the Signal Corps
of the Army or the Signal Corps was the Weather Bureau, both
modes of stating the relation of the two being essentially correct,
as for many years the operations of the Signal Corps were practically
restricted to its activities as a weather forecasting service.
In order to understand and appreciate the almost unique combination
of qualities, moral and intellectual, which enabled Abbe to
play his great part in the creation and development of what
is in many respects the most important of the scientific bureaus
of the Government, it is necessary to know something of the
conditions under which he worked during the earlier stages of
thirty years of age, as the enthusiastic director of the Cincinnati
Observatory, he had successfully inaugurated a system of weather
reports by telegraph from which daily forecasts were attempted.
His success led to an act of Congress providing for the utilization
of the Signal Corps of the army for the organization of a general
weather service, and Professor Abbe was called Washington as
meteorologist in that service. At that time he was the only
man in the country having experience in or knowledge of weather
forecasting for the use of the public based upon the principles
of scientific meteorology, and for some time the duty of daily
interpreting the meteorological observations made in all parts
of the country devolved upon him alone. The new service was
immediately popular, and though barely thirty years of age,
he soon became generally known as ‘Old Probabilities,’
or ‘Old Prob.’ Realizing that the then state of
our knowledge of meteorology was quite inadequate for anything
like accurate forecasting, he sought to induce the War Department
to obtain an annual appropriation for the purpose of maintaining
a systematic study of the subject, both theoretical and experimental.
Methods of transacting business assumed to be necessary in a
military organization in time of peace are decidedly inimical
to scientific investigation and research, and from the start
Abbe’s plans met with obstruction at almost every turn,
not always due to unfriendliness-indeed more often to mere inertia
of the system. In overcoming this opposition, which at times
was so unyielding as to completely discourage all others who
were interested, he was successful, because of his two most
characteristic traits were an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the
work, which amounted almost to an obsession, and an equally
inexhaustible patience in meeting unfriendly or unintelligent
think not much was actually accomplished until Gen. W.B. Hazen
became Chief Signal Officer in 1880. Fro the two great advances
made during the first few years of his administration credit
belongs to Abbe, almost if not quite alone. Certainly the initiative
and general plans were his, though, of course, there could have
been no success without the friendly support of the chief Signal
Officer. Perhaps the most important of the two was the improvement
of the character of members of the corps by means of a provision
for special enlistment of young men, mostly college graduates,
with the rank of sergeant in the Signal Corps, with exemption
from most of the ordinary duties of the regularly enlisted soldier.
other was the establishment of what was known as the ‘Study
Room,’ in which all meteorological problems arising in
the service were subjects of investigation by civilians employed
for the purpose, two or three of whom had the rank or title
of ‘Professor’ and some others that of ‘Assistant
Professor,’ and arrangement probably suggested by the
practice of the military and naval academies. This was shortly
supplemented by the establishment of a laboratory for experimental
investigation, the inauguration of which I undertook at the
earnest solicitation of Professor Abbe in 1884.
study room and the laboratory formed, also, a sort of school
for the enlisted men, to whom courses of lectures on meteorological,
for the enlisted men, to whom courses of lectures on meteorological,
physical, and allied topics were given. The distinguished meteorologist,
William Ferrel, was one of the professors, and in addition to
a part in the instructional work his assignment embraced a theoretical
investigation of the general principles of meteorology with
a view to the improvement of the work of forecasting the weather.
The vitalization of the service through these important changes
resulted, happily, in the acquisition of such young men as Marvin,
Fassig, McAdie, Morrill, McRae, Russell, and a number of others,
some of whom are still in the service, and from several of whom
have come in later years contributions to the science of meteorology
of very great value.
difficulty of doing scientific work, either theoretical or experimental,
under conditions, then existing, can be appreciated only by
those who have attempted it, and it is because of Professor
Abbe’s extraordinary courage and success in meeting these
difficulties that I am referring to them at such length. There
was at that time a sort of tradition among military men-which
may not yet be extinct-implying that a properly signed written
order from a superior officer to do a certain thing carried
with it not only the duty of doing it, but also the capacity
to do it, which I imagine may be a rather stimulating idea for
one engaged in battle, though of doubtful value in scientific
“Our duties were assigned to us in regular instructions
or ‘orders’ from the chief Signal Officer, written
on regulation order slips on which our initials were placed,
as evidence that we had received and understood our instructions.
headquarters of the Signal Corps were at that time on ‘G
Street,’ near the War Department, and by a curious chance
the two somewhat conflicting elements were housed on opposite
sides of the street, the study room, the laboratory, the instrument
testing division, etc., being in one building on the south side,
while the offices of the Chief Signal Officer and his military
aides, the property and disbursing officer, the forecasting
officers, etc., were on the north. That controversies between
the two were on the whole rather infrequent and rarely acute
was due, more than to anything else, to Abbe’s unfailing
good nature and general willingness to be the subject of the
obloquy of both sides.
military tradition I have referred to above did not harmonize
with the traditions and practice of scientific research. The
most industrious and enthusiastic investigator would be somewhat
dismayed by the receipt of ‘instructions’-not much
unlike the following: “you will begin on Monday next an
investigation of the cause or causes of the attraction of gravitation,
and make a preliminary report upon your work in two weeks. A
final report is to be ready by the first of next month.’
Unfortunately Nature does not yield her secrets in response
to orders, and there were naturally many failures to ‘get
results’ on time. For example, to Abbe was assigned the
preparation of a text on the general subject of meteorology,
and his failure to produce a certain number of pages in a given
time would be the subject of much fault-finding from ‘across
the street,’ where it was often thought that the study
room was not ‘paying its way.’ The Chief Signal
Officer, General Hazen, although first of all a soldier from
the time of his admission to the West Point Military Academy
to the day of his death, was by no means unfriendly to scientific
men and their work. His attitude was frankly one of open-mindedness,
desiring only, like the traditional Missourian, to be ‘shown.’
But it was not always easy to show him that, although nothing
tangible had bee accomplished during the past month, the time
had not been wasted. He had great confidence in and admiration
for Professor Abbe, consulted him freely, and was often guided
by his advice when it did not agree with that of his military
aides. But in spite of this fact, occasionally when some one
would succeed in convincing him that there was too much unproductiveness
across the street, he would call Abbe, and, according to an
‘office legend,’ after emptying the vials of his
wrath upon him, would immediately send an official note to the
Secretary of War recommending an increase in his salary. In
the offices having charge of the disbursement of funds, and
of the ‘property’ of the service, there was little
sympathy with the work across the way, and great discouragement
to those engaged in it was often the result. The amount of ‘red
tape’ that had to be unwound before the smallest expenditure
could be made, together wit the fact that the necessity for
such expenditure must be shown to an officer quite ignorant
of the nature of the work, whose merit was measured by the expenditures
he prevented, was often extremely disheartening, and, in fact,
it was correct to say that the scientific work of the Weather
Bureau was at that time almost continually on the defensive,
existing only on sufferance. Indeed, this was in some degree
true of all the other so-called scientific bureaus of the Government.
Happily it is a condition that has now almost, though not yet
if the workers in the study room and in the laboratory were
not kept busy enough, it was no fault of Abbe’s. He had
a singularly full and complete knowledge of the state of the
science of meteorology in all parts of the world, and was continually
suggesting problems that he thought demanded attention. He usually
made a short visit in the laboratory every day, and it was humorously
regarded as a disappointment when he did not bring us at least
one new subject for experimental investigation. One of his most
outstanding traits was the absolute absence of anything like
envy or jealousy in his relations with his fellow-workers and
scientific men generally. He was quick to recognize a meritorious
performance or a meritorious person, and generous in praise
as he was, also at times free in criticism. His disposition
was most amicable; he was one of the most lovable men that I
have ever known. There was a rare simplicity and frankness in
his speech which was reflected in his acts, and added much to
the charm of his personality. One could always feel sure that
there was no arriere pensee; but he was most considerate for
the feelings of others, and never intentionally wounded by word
or deed. During his long career in the service of the Government,
covering nearly half a century he passed through many trying
situations. The work in which he was engaged was more than once
‘under fire,’ but passing years have only emphasized
the importance of that work with a more general recognition
of our great indebtedness to Abbe as the real founder.
one considers the small beginning in 1869 at the Cincinnati
Observatory, with a few daily telegrams generously donated by
the Western Union Telegraph Company, a local forecast printed
in a single daily newspaper, and then turns to the present splendid
organization, with its thousands of observers, its two or more
daily forecasts printed in every city and town, and reaching
by telephone or otherwise the remotest corners of the country,
its storm warnings, its frost and flood warnings by which annually
property worth many millions of dollars is saved from destruction,
its important investigations in the field of agricultural meteorology
and its other useful functions, one cannot avoid the conclusion
that the nation has had few more useful servants than Cleveland
Of the many useful roles Professor Abbe played in the drama
of his day perhaps on the whole the most serviceable were those
of mentor and propagandist. For years he took a prominent part
in the agitation for a system of standard time that finally
led to the present compromise of partial order. He also urged
the establishment of climatological and meteorological services
by the individual States, and had the pleasure of seeing many
of them adopt his suggestions. In aid of the student all that
was then known of meteorological instruments and methods was
compiled in one convenient and invaluable manual; a bibliography
of meteorological literature was begun and in great measure
completed, and the best papers on dynamical meteorology assembled
in two volumes-The Mechanics of the Earth’s Atmosphere.
Finally, by conversation, publication, translation, and countless
private letters, he stove, and effectually, to create an active
interest in the science of meteorology, and to enlist in the
solution of its innumerable problems students of the research
type-keen of intellect and persevering. The persistence of his
efforts to this end and their eminent success are well described
by Prof. R. De C. Ward, of Harvard University, who says, in
remember Professor Abbe as always keenly interested in the work
and progress of young men who were looking towards meteorology,
either as a career or only as a passing subject for study. He
must have written hundreds of letters of the kind that he often
wrote to me, giving encouragement, suggestion, help. I wrote
him once, at the beginning of my own professional career, when
I was greatly discouraged and about to turn in some other direction
for a livelihood. Professor Abbe wrote me a letter so full of
encouragement, urging me so strongly to ‘stick to my job,’
and assuring me that all would come right in the end, that I
gave up my idea of abandoning meteorology. I think Professor
Abbe’s letter was really one of the turning points in
Abbe was always keenly and actively interested in promoting
sound meteorological education, especially along mathematical
and physical lines. He used to write me long letters, outlining
problems for young meteorologists, and urging me to establish
a school of problems. These schemes of his always seemed most
highly visionary to me, but I enjoyed the enthusiasm of Professor
Abbe’s letters and found a stimulus in them.
found Professor Abbe ready at all times to answer any questions,
no matter how much time these answers might require. I wrote
him freely for years, and I spent many hours trying to decipher
that highly characteristic and almost illegible handwriting
of his. But this time was well spent, for he never sent me a
letter that did not contain something of distinct value and
“The qualities which, I think, impressed me most were
his wonderful patience; his enormous fund of all sorts of meteorological
knowledge; his never-failing willingness to help every one who
came to him for information or advice; his modesty in everything
that concerned his own accomplishment; his splendid enthusiasm
and his desire to impart that enthusiasm to all his fellow-workers
Naturally many honors came to Professor Abbe, two of which,
the Symons Memorial Gold Medal, bestowed by the Royal Meteorological
Society of Great Britain, in 1912, and the Marcellus Hartley
Medal, awarded by the National Academy of Sciences, April 18,
1916, were of inestimable value to him, typifying respectively,
as they did, eminent success in his chosen science, and in its
application to human welfare.
just stated, his honors were many; so also were the positions
of trust he held and the learned societies of which he was a
member. Similarly the causes of these honors-the papers and
the memoirs he wrote-are exceedingly numerous. Ordinarily it
would be difficult now to obtain a full list of all these honors,
societies, et cetera, and well nigh impossible to compile a
complete bibliography. But here again Professor Abbe’s
methodical care is of great service, and therefore the following
lists, and the accompanying selected bibliography kindly made
up by Dr. Cleveland Abbe, Jr., from his father’s abundant
notes, are submitted wit the belief that with the exception
of numerous editorial comments, but little of importance has
B.A., Free Academy, now College of the City of New York.
1860. M.A., Free Academy, now College of the City of New York.
1889. LL. D., University of Michigan (honorary).
1891. Ph.D., College of the City of New York (honorary).
1896. LL.D., University of Glasgow, Scotland (honorary, on occasion
of Lord kelvin Jubilee).
1900. S.B., “as of 1864,” Harvard university, Cambridge,
Tutor in Mathematics, Trinity School, New York, N.Y.
1859. Assistant Professor of Engineering, Michigan State Agriculture
College, Lansing, Mich.
1859-60. Tutor in Engineering and Mechanics, University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, Mich.
1884-1916. Professor of meteorology, Corcoran Scientific School,
Columbian (George Washington) University, Washington, D.C.
1895-1916. Lecturer in Meteorology, Johns Hopkins University,
Aid in U.S. COAST AND Geodetic Survey (doing astronomical work
at Cambridge, Mass., under B.A. Gould).
Dec., 1864-May, 1865. Resident guest at Nicholas Central Observatory,
Pulkova, near Petrograd.
May, 1865-Sept., 1866. Ausseretatmassiger, or Supernumerary
Astronomer at Nicholas Central observatory, Pulkova, near Petrograd.
1867-68. Aid at U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington, D.C.
1868-73. Director, Cincinnati Observatory, on Mt. Adams.
1871-91. Professor of Meteorology and Civilian Assistant in
the office of the chief Signal Officer, U.S. Army.
1891-1916, Aug. 4. Professor of Meteorology in the U.S. Weather
Bureau, Department of Agriculture.
1892-1909, July. Editor of Monthly Weather Review of U.S. Weather
1909, May-Oct. Official in Charge, Local Office, Weather Bureau,
at Baltimore, Md.
Oct., 1909-1913. Editor of Mount Weather Observatory Bulletin,
Jan., 1914-1916, Aug. 4. Editor of Monthly Weather Review.
IN COLLEGE FRATERNITIES
Member of “Alpha Delta Phi,” Manhattan Chapter,
1896-1916. Member of “Phi Beta Kappa,” New York
Gamma Chapter, Class-.
IN SCIENTIFIC AND LEARNED SOCIETIES
Boston Society of Natural History, a member.
1867. Deutsche Astronomische Gesellschaft, Mitlgied [commuted
1868. New York Lyceum of Natural History, now the New York Academy
of Sciences. Corresponding member.
1868. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow.
1868. Cincinnati Literary Club, a member.
1869. Historical Society of Ohio, a member.
1871. American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, a member.
1871. Philosophical Society of Washington, a member and founder,
Treasurer and Editor of its Bulletin, 1891-1896. President,
1874. Oesterreichische Gesellschaft fur Meteorologie (Vienna).
Mitglied [commuted for life].
1874. American Metrological Society (New York), a member.
1875. Association Francaise pour l’avancement des Sciences,
a member [commuted for life].
1876. Royal Astronomical Society (London), Fellow [commuted
1879. National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
member. Hartley medalist, 1916.
1881. Victoria Institute of Great Britain (London), Associate
1881. New York Historical Society, Resident life member [commuted].
1882. American Forestry Association, a member.
1883. Deutsche meteorologische Gesellschaft (Berlin). Korrespondirender
Mitglied. [see 1892].
1884. American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Boston. Associate
1884. New England Meteorological Society, a member. [society
dissolved in 1896.]
1887. British Association for the Advancement of Science. Corresponding
member; also life member [commuted].
1888. National Geographic Society (Washington), a member[ commuted
1890. American Historical Association, a member.
1891. New York Mathematical Society (now American Mathematical
Society), a member.
1891. Royal Meteorological Society (London), a Fellow [later
Honorary Fellow and Medalist].
1892. Deutsche Meteorologische Gesellschaft (Berlin). Ehren-Mitglied.
1893. Deutsche Mathematische Vereinigung (Munich). Mitglied
[commuted for life].
1894. Columbian Historical Society (Washington), a member.
1895. Societe Meteorologique de France, a member [commuted for
1896. Connecticut Historical Society (Hartford). Corresponding
1897. Societa Meteorologia Italian (Turin), a member.
1898. Washington, D.C. Academy of Sciences, a member.
1899 American Physical Society, a member.
1900. Astronomical and Astro-physical Society of America, a
1902. Carnegie Institution of Washington: Chairman of the Committee
of Advisors in Meteorology [temporary position; abolished in
1905. Association of American Geographers.
1913. Seismological Society of America.
Club, Washington, D.C., Feb. 5, 1883-Dec. 31, 1884.
Harvard Club of Washington, 1900-1915.
Washington Chapter Associate Alumni, College of the City of
TO IMPORTANT CONVENTIONS, ETC.
U.S. Signal Service delegate to American Forestry Congress at
1884. U.S. Signal Service delegate to the Electrical Conference
1884. United States delegate tot he International Meridian and
time Standard Congress at Washington.
1886. Columbian University (Washington) and Pres. J.C. Welling’s
delegate to 250yh Anniversary of Harvard College.
1891. U.S. Weather Bureau associate delegate to 2d International
Meteorological Conference at Munich.
1896. Delegate of U.S. Weather Bureau, Columbian University,
Kelvin’s Baltimore Class of 1884, Kelvin Jubilee (Glasgow).
1900. United States delegate to International Congress of Physicists
1901. College of the City of New York delegate to Bi-centennial
of Yale University.
1904. U.S. Weather Bureau delegate to inauguration of C.S. Howe
as President of the Case School of Applied Science.
ORDERS, MEDALS, AND PRIZES
Free Academy of the City of New York: Ward Medal in chemistry
[established in 1853]. (Bronze.) Burr Medal in Mathematics [established?
In 1853]. (Silver.)
1886. H.H. Warner (Rochester, N.Y.). Medal for Scientific Discovery
(gold) for his “Red Light Essay;” see Amer. Metr’l.
Jour., April, 1889, 5: 529-544; also ibidem, v.1, p.454, and
1889. French Republic, Ministry of Public Instructions: “Officier
1901. Yale University, bi-centennial medal inscribed, Universitat
Yalensis, A.D., MDCCCCCI, concelebrat Collegium Yalense, A.D.,
MDCCI, conditum. (Bronze.)
1906. American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia) Franklin
medal, inscribed: “Medal struck by the United States Congress
to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin
Franklin (1706-1790). (Bronze.)
1907. College of the City of New York: a . Werner memorial,
inscribed: “To commemorate fifty years of service at the
College of the City of New York. June, 1907. Adolph Werner,
Scholar, Teacher, Friend.” (Bronze.)
1912. Royal Meteorological Society of London: Symons Memorial
1912-13. Franklin Institute (Philadelphia): Longstreth Medal
of Merit for his paper, “The Obstacles to the Progress
of Meteorology.” [See Jour. Franklin Instit., Feb., 1914,
177: 250.] (Silver.)
1916. U.S. National Academy of Sciences: Marcellus Hartley Memorial
Medal “for eminence in the application of science to the
public welfare.” (Gold.)
FOR METEOROLOGY IN OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS
Annual Record for Science and Industry (Harper & Bros.).
Appleton’s new Encyclopedia.
1892-94? Johnson’s New Encyclopedia.
1900-02. New International Encyclopedia (Dodd, Mead & Co.),
1913-14. New International Encyclopedia (Dodd, Mead & Co.),
1904-13. Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th ed.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 10th ed.
Encyclopedia Britannica, Yearbook “1913.”
1889. Century Dictionary, 1st ed.?
1905. Century Dictionary.
1908-9 Webster’s New International Dictionary [1st ed.].
American Meteorological Journal, Ann Arbor and Boston.
1904-1916. Beitrage zur Physik der freien Atmosphare, Strassburg