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Last on

Sat 3 Aug 2013 23:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 28 July 2013

Poet Lavinia Greenlaw composes a tribute to Luke Howard, the amateur meteorologist who in 1802 devised the cloud classification system and inspired the Romantics.

Luke Howard, often called "the father of meteorology" was a chemist, whose ideas for cloud classification were stirred when he was a schoolboy. In his late twenties he composed the influential 'Essay on the Modification of Clouds', which was delivered at the Askesian Society, a fortnightly London science meeting.

Howard's influence upon art and poetry is as impressive as his meteorological discoveries. His essay became the subject of poems by Goethe and Percy Bysshe Shelley and he is believed to have inspired some of John Constable's landscapes.

Before composing a new poem dedicated to Luke Howard, Lavinia goes cloud spotting in Somerset with Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society. Richard Hamblyn, Luke Howard's biographer, describes how he gave the Romantics a new scientific language and Constable expert Anne Lyles examines Luke Howard's impact on the visual arts.

Producer: Paul Smith
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.


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