On January 11, 1954, George Cowling presented the first 'in vision' weather forecast on the BBC. In celebration of this we offer a brief history of the Weather Forecast.
George Cowling presents the weather forecast
Meteorology may well have been the first science. It surely would not have taken early man long to realise that the dark streaks in the sky moving his way meant that he was going to get wet.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, observed in the 4th century BC that "whoever wishes to pursue the science of medicine must first investigate the seasons of the year and what occurs in them."
The Chinese in the 11th century BC, and the Egyptians a little later, observed and studied the weather, but the science did not really get under way until the invention of instruments which could measure the elements - mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The British Meteorological Office (now Met Office) was founded in 1854 as a very small department in the Board of Trade, under Captain Robert FitzRoy (famous for commanding HMS Beagle on Charles Darwin's historic expedition). It was set up to provide meteorological and sea current information to mariners.
By 1861 it was issuing gale warnings to shipping: harbourmasters, on being telegraphed with a warning, would hoist north or south cones up a mast. Regular forecasts to the press began in 1879 and published forecasts have continued since that date.
On November 14, 1922, the BBC broadcast the first radio weather bulletin to the public when an announcer read a script prepared by the Met Office, and on March 26, 1923, daily radio forecasts began.
On November 11, 1936, the world's first television chart was transmitted at the start of a trial series. BBC Television closed down during World War II but, in July 1949, weather maps with captions began to be broadcast again.
The First TV Forecasters
The idea of personalised weather forecasting on BBC Television was first raised at an executive lunch in 1953. The BBC's then Director-General, Sir Ian Jacob, noted that "a young but highly professional meteorologist who was in the party" had made the point that it would be better if, instead of just weather maps and charts, the forecaster himself appeared on screen.
Within a year, the anonymous young man's idea had become a reality
with the help of "an easel and treatment to walls for background" at a cost of £50.
On January 11, 1954, George Cowling of the Met Office became the first person to present a weather forecast on British television. The broadcast was live and lasted for five whole minutes. The Radio Times for that week highlighted the new service:
"From Monday onwards the television weather report and forecast will be presented by a Meteorological Office forecaster who will explain and comment on the charts shown. The change is designed to stress the continuity of the reports provided; the forecaster will show, for example, how the weather expected tomorrow is conditioned by the weather experienced today."
"Two Forecast Officers, will for the time being share the job. They are: George Cowling, a 32 year old Yorkshireman, married and the father of a five year old son; and TH Clifton, a 42 year old Londoner, married and the father of four girls and one boy."