The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)
Meteorology Milestones
IMO: The Origin of WMO
The Beginnings of WMO
Future Developments
  The Building  


Title page of a Latin edition of Aristotle's work on meteorology, printed in Venice in 1560.


"Early meteorological glasswork instruments made at the workshop of the Accademia Del Cimento (1657-1667) in Florence. The glass tube no. 4 is a reproduction of Galileo's famous 'thermoscope.'"


"Galileo Galileo."

The Historical Roots of WMO

The cultural heritage of early civilisations such as those of the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans is full of references to the weather and its extremes. Almost all of them shared the belief that the change in weather comes from somewhere else. The Greeks believed that western winds were cold because they blew from the sunset. The ancient Romans called their summers the "Dog Days". They believed that Sirius, the Dog Star, which appears at the same time as the Sun during summer, added its heat to the Sun's, making the weather hotter.

In the fourth century BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first to approach meteorology as a science. The first serious human attempts to understand the weather and climate scientifically and systematically came with the Renaissance in Europe. The Accademia Del Cimento of Florence, established in 1657 by King Ferdinand II of Tuscany, made a great contribution to the development of some of the basic tools of meteorological science. King Ferdinand II also established the first international meteorological network of weather stations, included seven in northern Italy and four others in Warsaw, Paris, Innsbruck and Osnabruck. In Florence, 15 observations were made daily in which the famous "thermoscope" of Galileo Galileo was utilised for measuring temperatures.

In 1714, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit of Germany developed the Fahrenheit temperature scale and in 1742, the Swedish astronomer Andres Celsius developed the Celsius temperature scale.

The next major milestone in meteorology came in 1780, when a network of 39 stations (37 in Europe and two in North America, were established by Societas Meteorologica Palantina, the Latin name adopted by the Meteorological Society of Mannheim. The society's weather stations carried out their observations with standardised methods and carefully calibrated instruments. The data were meticulously processed, presented for scientific use and recorded in a series of yearbooks.

Over the following decades, a large number of meteorological observing stations were opened in many countries from East Europe to North America. The first weather maps appeared in the 1820's and the ability to construct these maps in real-time resulted in the invention of the electric telegraph by Samuel Morse in 1835. The telegraph was used for regular transmission of weather reports as of 1849.

However, it was not until 1853 that the world's meteorologists gathered for the first time to address common concerns. The need to better coordinate the measurement of wind over the oceans led US Navy Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury to convene the First International Meteorological Conference in Brussels in August 1853. Lieutenant Fontaine Maury was known for his wind and current charts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans based on data he had gathered from ships' captains over a period of nine years. The main achievements of the Conference were the adoption of a standard form of ship's log, a set of standard instructions for meteorological observations at sea and a system for the collection of ships' logs.