Meteorology in America, 1800–1870 is the story of American meteorology's emergence as both a field of serious scientific study and the establishment of a government weather service. James Fleming has drawn on extensive archival and manuscript sources and has brought to light the most complete, accurate, and satisfying history of the formative years of the science of meteorology in the United States published to date.
The basic theme of the book is that in the 19th century the science of meteorology, not only in the United States but worldwide, underwent “a rapid and dramatic expansion of its scientific horizons.” To develop this theme, Fleming uses observational systems and theoretical networks as interrelated units of analysis. The “observational system” refers to the organized networks of volunteer weather observers throughout North America. They were the “instrument” with which meteorologists collected their data. The theoretical networks refer to the informal communication links between individuals involved in the “storm controversy” of the mid-19th century, their supporters and detractors in domestic and foreign scientific societies, and other theoreticians.