Blanford | Henry Francis | 1834-1893 | meteorologist and palaeontologist

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

Henry Francis Blanford (1834-1893), founder of the India Meteorological Department, was a geologist by training. Educated at the Royal School of Mines in London, he was appointed to the Geological Survey of India in 1855. In this post, he carried out several important investigations, including a detailed description and classification of the substantial coal deposits in Orissa, the extent of which was unknown at the time. He had an interest in palaeontology, and his stratigraphic work was in large part based on palaeontological evidence.

His shift from geology to meteorology occurred around the time of his appointment as professor of science at Presidency College in Calcutta in 1862. In 1864, a pair of cyclones hit Eastern India, killing 70,000 and damaging the port of Calcutta. Blanford co-wrote an informative meteorological report on the subject, despite the lack of accurate readings and inadequate knowledge of Indian weather. He was subsequently appointed secretary of the commission created to establish a system of storm warnings in order to protect Calcutta's harbour.

A number of regional authorities were eventually set up, Blanford being placed in charge of the Bengal Province Meteorological Department, which covered Calcutta, in 1867. The fragmented, regionalised nature of these local organisations was soon found to be a problem, and in 1875, the India Meteorological Department was founded, with Blanford in charge. Blanford made several important innovations during his tenure. He initiated the publication of the department's scientific results, made long-term weather forecasts using the link between the nature of snow in the himalayas and rainfall in the rest of India (to determine general weather trends like drought or heavy rainfall, not make specific forecasts for individual days far into the future). Though he introduced this form of long-range forecasting, and he lectured on this subject to the Royal Society, he made no claims to the phenomenon's discovery.

He was for a period, the president of the Asiatic Society, a learned society based in Calcutta.

Relationships

None

Other Significant Information

Notable publications:

Indian Meteorologist's Vade Mecum, ( c1875)

Climates and Weather of India, ( 1889)

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

1855-1862: Appointed to the Staff of the Geological Survey of India

1862: Appointed Professor of Science, Presidency College, Calcutta

1867: Appointed Meteorological Reporter for Bengal, Bengal Provincial Meteorological Department

1875-1889: Appointed Meteorological Reporter to the Government of India, India Meteorological Department

1880: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society

1884-1889: Elected President of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta

Notes

List of sources for the biographical information:

Royal Society, Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol LIV, ( London, Harrison & Sons, 1894)

India Meteorological Department, History of Meteorology in India, (http://www.imd.ernet.in/doc/history/history.htm, India Meterological Department, 2000)