Comunicação Nacional
Science, Art and Photography : the study of Clouds from nineteenth to early twentieth century
Organização:  INAF/Università degli studi di Palermo
Pontifical Faculty of Theology, Palermo
20 / 09 / 2023

In nineteenth century culture, dramatic scenes representing atmospheric phenomena were common as visual objects. Some of the most gifted photographers of early nineteenth century, Gustave LeGray and Roger Fenton obtained photographs of clouds in the period 1850-1860. Earlier, in 1802, the English meteorologist Luke Howard had published a scientific classification of clouds. His paper inspired the English painter John Constable to make some painting studies of clouds during the years 1821-1822. In the 1st International Meteorological Congress in Vienna (1873), delegates decided to encourage institutes and observatories to publish through photography or painting, pictures of different types of clouds. Following this decision Swedish meteorologist Hugo Hildebrandsson, director of the observatory of Uppsala in Sweden, produced in 1879, a publication containing photographs of clouds, obtained using the wet collodion photographic technique. In the International Meteorological Congress in Rome (1879), which was also attended by the Portuguese meteorologist Brito Capelo from the Observatory Infante D. Luiz, it was then determined that an exclusive use of photography should be used in order to prepare an International Atlas of clouds However the first version of this Atlas (1890), was illustrated with heliotypes and oil paintings of clouds reproduced by photomechanical processes. It was also acknowledged by metereologists that measurements of altitude, velocity and the movement of clouds were important in order to have a complete record of states of the atmosphere. In this paper, the study of nephoscopes, instruments designed for these measurements, from Portuguese collections kept in museums and scientific institutions, will be presented.

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