Life Before Barometers

September 27th, 2013 | posted by Justine D'Ooge

It is amazing that settled agriculture is considered to be a major contributing factor in humans’ shift towards civilization, yet instrumental meteorological observations did not begin until the early 17th century.  From farmers to fishermen,

Stick Barometer By John Bennett

Stick Barometer By John Bennett

humans relied on knowledge gathered from generations of observations to predict the weather; maxims such as “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.  Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” were our guides before Doppler radar.

Barometer by Worthington of London

Barometer by Worthington of London

Instrument-based predictions that are indispensable to us now (especially for those of us that are put in the crosshairs every hurricane season) were begun in earnest with the thermometer developed by Galileo Galilei.  Even though the Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli is credited with inventing the barometer in 1643, this original invention by Galileo did also, in fact, respond to atmospheric pressure just like a barometer does.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of barometers in pre-Industrial Revolution society.  In the early years of their use, we relied on them heavily for planning day-to-day routines; even the most modest of homes had some manner of this instrument.  However, few barometers dated before the 1770s, the early part of this significant point in human history, remain today, making this Georgian barometer from circa 1750 quite the find. Crafted by the leading London instrument-maker John Bennett, this exceptional barometer is known as a “stick” barometer.  While many attempts were made to improve upon the barometer’s  form, the stick barometer proved to be the most reliable.

Another fine example of a stick barometer is this one by the esteemed Worthington & Allan.  While the barometer by John Bennett bears a sycamore veneer, this piece from circa 1825 is crafted with another luxurious choice: Cuban Mahogany.

Nowadays you may rely on the news or your phone to stay updated on the weather, but nothing compares to the elegance of these barometers.  Without taking up much wall space, you have both a graceful form made from the finest of woods, and a functional reminder of what life was like centuries ago.

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