William Ferrel

Born: 29 Jan 1817 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: 18 Sept 1891 in Maywood, Kansas, USA

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Ferrel did not write a scientific paper until he was 36. In 1857 Ferrel joined the staff of The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. In 1867 Benjamin Peirce persuaded him to join the US Coastal Survey. Ferrel conjectured that tides should retard the Earth's rotation, an effect dismissed by Laplace. Ferrel found that Laplace had neglected 2nd order terms which give the retarding.

As well as research on tides Ferrel studied currents, storms and invented a machine to predict tidal maxima and minima. He became the chief founder of the subject of geophysical fluid dynamics.

Among his works were Popular Essays on the Movements of the Atmosphere (1882), Temperature of the Atmosphere and the Earth's Surface (1884), Recent Advances in Meteorology (1886), and A Popular Treatise on the Winds (1889).

References (3 books/articles)

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JOC/EFR December 1996