Edmond Halley, F.R.S., Hydrologist Extraordinary

EDMOND HALLEY (1656–1742) was a versatile genius, primarily known as a pioneer in astronomy, geophysics and mathematics. He was also interested in history, navigation, archaeology and civil engineering. He wrote poems in Latin and translated ancient works on geometry from Greek and Arabic texts. He was the founder of population and actuarial statistics, and, in my opinion, he was one of the co-founders of experimental hydrology. It is surprising to note that Halley’s substantial contributions to hydrology have received such scant attention while his manifold contributions to other disciplines have been well documented and thoroughly discussed. Before the writer’s work, only two other authors conducted serious studies on the development of the science of hydrology and both of them, Adams and Meinzer, just barely mention Halley’s work. This is difficult to understand, when one considers that it was Halley who for the first time presented the experimental solution to a major problem associated with the concept of the hydrologic cycle, a most fundamental concept of hydrology.

By Asit K. Biswas, 1970. Article published in Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Volume 25, Issue 1, pages 47-57. DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.1970.0004

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