By Suzanne Ruta
August 03, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Invention of Clouds

B+

Calling all Weather Channel addicts — check out this endearing report on Luke Howard, gentle British Quaker and amateur meteorologist, who in 1802 explained what clouds are really made of (dust and water), analyzed the few basic recurring shapes, and named them, with definitive Latinate elegance, cirrus, cumulus, stratus, and nimbus. This enthusiastic account of Howard’s scientific coup burbles portentously, like a Monty Python BBC spoof (”little did they know”), but it’s packed with fascinating trivia, ranging from the average life expectancy of a cumulus cloud (10 minutes) to the number of Parisians who watched one of the first manned hot-air-balloon flights in 1783 (400,000).

The Invention of Clouds

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