Beginning of Quantitative Hydrology

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, nearly all investigators of distinction belonged to one scientific society or another. The most notable of those societies were the Royal Society of London, and the Académie Royale des Sciences of Paris, founded in 1662 and 1666 respectively. Publishing the results of new investigations in journals of the societies was a logical occurrence, and the two societies gradually attained a prestige greater than that of most universities.

Three men of this period are particularly outstanding for their contributions to the development of the science of quantitative hydrology. All three were connected, directly or indirectly, to both of those societies. They were the French naturalist Pierre Perrault; the French physicist, Edmé Mariotte; and the English astronomer, Edmond Halley. As quantitative hydrologists, they were the first to undertake experimental investigations to establish some of the fundamental principles in that science. Mariotte and Halley, members of the Académie Royale des Sciences and the Royal Society respectively, played significant parts during the early years thereof, and although Perrault did not belong to either of those scientific societies, his brother, Claude, was an active member of the French Academy, and Christiaan Huygens (1625–1695), the physicist, to whom his book De l’origine desfontaines is dedicated, was considered a mainstay of the Academy. In any event these three scientists, Perrault, Mariotte, and Halley, for the first time in history, started the science of hydrology off on a quantitative basis.

By Asit K. Biswas, Chapter 10 of the book: History of Hydrology, 1970, North-Holland Publishing Company, Amsterdam.

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