Ferrel, William(1817–91) meteorologist; born in Fulton County, Pa. Largely self-taught, he is credited with moving meteorology from a descriptive science to a quantitative science. He was the first to describe mathematically the significance of the earth's rotation on its surface bodies. Known as Ferrel's Law, it states, "if a body is moving in any direction, there is a force, arising from the earth's rotation, which always deflects it to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere." He taught school in the midwest before joining the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac in Cambridge, Mass., in 1857. From 1867–82 he worked on the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. As a member of the Signal Service (1882–86), he invented a tide machine, the first to predict maximum and minimum tides. His publications include Popular Essays on Movement of the Atmosphere (1882).
Born Jan. 29, 1817, in Fulton County, Pa.; died Sept. 18, 1891, in Maywood, Kan. American meteorologist.
Ferrel was a member of the Coast and Geodetic Survey of the USA from 1867 to 1882. He directed meteorological research for the Army Signal Corps in Washington from 1882 to 1886. He was the first to apply mathematical methods consistently to meteorological problems by constructing a theoretical model of the general atmospheric circulation on the basis of the equations of hydrodynamics. His use of mathematical methods contributed to the development of modern dynamical meteorology. Ferrel did research in the theory of hurricanes and tornadoes, the theory of the temperature distribution in the atmosphere and on the earth’s surface, and tidal theory.
WORKSAn Essay on the Winds and the Currents of the Ocean. Nashville, 1856.
The Motions of Fluids and Solids, Relative to the Earth’s Surface. New York–London, 1860.
Meteorological Researches, part 1. Washington, 1878.
“Meteorological Researches.” American Journal of Science, 1881, series 3, vol. 22.
Recent Advances in Meteorology. Washington, 1886.