announcement that Prof. Cleveland
Abbe, who for some time past has been
prevented by the infirmities of advancing years from taking
an active part in the work of the bureau, has now definitely
retired from official life will awaken a keen sense of personal
loss in the minds of his former colaborers. Professor Abbe was
not only a tireless and prolific worker in behalf of science
and the public institution to which he dedicated the best years
of his life, but he was also, in a very unusual degree, endowed
with the faculty of communicating his enthusiasm to others and
stimulating their efforts; a faculty that made itself felt both
in personal intercourse and through his writings.
New York City in 1838, he was graduated from the Free Academy
(now the College of the City of New York) in 1857, and studied
astronomy with F. Brunnow, at Ann Arbor, 1858-60, and with B.
A. Gould, at Cambridge, 1860-64. From Cambridge he went to Russia,
where he spent two years as a student and assistant at the Observatory
at Pulkova, under the distinguished astronomer Otto Struve.
On returning to the United States he was connected for a short
time with the Naval Observatory, and was called thence to the
directorship of the Cincinnati Observatory.
Abbe's work at Cincinnati will always remain a landmark in the
history of meteorology, as it was here that he organized, in
1869, with the assistance of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce
and the Western Union Telegraph Company, a system of telegraphic
weather reports, daily weather maps, and weather forecasts,
the first regular undertaking of this kind in America, and the
prototype of the weather service now maintained by the Federal
Government. Indeed, the object lesson afforded by Professor
Abbe's undertaking was the strongest argument in behalf of the
establishment of a national weather service in connection with
the Signal Corps of the Army; a project urged upon Congress
by Dr. I. A. Lapham and others and put into effect in the year
1871, Professor Abbe was appointed a civilian assistant in the
office of the Chief Signal Officer, where he organized the forecast
work and began preparing the tri-daily synopses and "probabilities"
of the weather. In the same year he began and urged the collection
of lines of leveling, and in 1872, by laborious analysis, deduced
the altitudes of the Signal Service barometers above sea-level.
In 1873 he inaugurated the Monthly Weather Review, and he prepared
several of the earlier numbers of this publication, which was
then only a brief bulletin of current weather statistics. Twenty
years later he was appointed editor of an enlarged publication
bearing the same title, and under his direction it soon became
one of the leading meteorological journals of the world.
It was largely
owing to Professor Abbe's advice that General Myer, the Chief
Signal Officer, sought the cooperation of foreign governments
and of the International Meteorological Congress of 1873 in
establishing the "Daily Bulletin of Simultaneous International
Meteorological Observations," and Professor Abbe took a leading
part in organizing this remarkable enterprise. World-wide systems
of observations continued to be one of the chief objects of
his interest and advocacy throughout his career. He was also
especially instrumental in the organization of the State weather
services, the predecessors of the present climatological service
of the Weather Bureau.
Abbe never ceased to urge the importance of meteorological research,
and he organized a branch of the Central Office, known at first
informally, and later officially, as the "study room," in which
many fruitful investigations were carried out. He himself set
the example in this field of activity. He prepared, for publication
as supplements to annual reports of the chief signal officer,
a "Treatise on Meteorological Apparatus and Methods" (1887),
and "Preparatory Studies for Deductive Methods in Storm and
Weather Prediction" (1889), and he laid English-speaking meteorologists
throughout the world under a special obligation by collecting
and translating the leading contributions to the subject of
dynamic meteorology (published by the Smithsonian Institution,
1877, 1891, and 1910). He also compiled a very comprehensive
digest on the relations between climate and crops (published
in part as Weather Bureau Bulletin 36). These notable works
represent, however, only a small part of his scientific and
literary activity. He was a voluminous contributor to scientific
journals and books of reference, as well as to official publications.
His scientific achievements were summarized by the president
of the Royal Meteorological Society, when the Symons Memorial
Gold Medal of that society was conferred upon him in 1912, in
the statement that he "has contributed to instrumental, statistical,
dynamical, and thermodynamical meteorology, and forecasting,"
and "has, moreover, played throughout the part not only of an
active contributor, but also of a leader who drew others into
the battle and pointed out paths along which attacks might be
Abbe was one of the leading promoters of the introduction of
standard time in this country, and was chairman of a committee
of the American Metrological Society which urged this reform
until it was finally adopted. -- August 1916
of Prof. Cleveland Abbe, which occurred in the early morning
of October 28, 1916, is announced.
Abbe died at his home in Chevy Chase, Md., to which he had returned
a few weeks before, after spending the summer on the coast of
It was characteristic
of his devotion to science and the vigor of his mental faculties,
that only a short time before he died he dictated a memorandum
to his wife regarding the manuscript of a translation relating
to meteorites that had been sent to him for comment.
Abbe's life was one of unusual simplicity and devotion to science,
especially to meteorology and climatology, although the early
years of his manhood were occupied with astronomical work in
which he gained much distinction. He indulged in scarcely any
recreations. He found his pleasures, when away from his office,
among his books. Gentleness and kindness reached their heights
with him and, aside from his world-wide recognition as a meteorologist,
he will be remembered always as a man that was universally loved.
As a special
mark of respect to Professor Abbe, the flags on the main building
of the Department of Agriculture and on the Weather Bureau,
in Washington, were flown at half mast on the day of his funeral.
-- October 1916