History of the Society

James Glaisher - Royal Meteorological Society Founder
James Glaisher,
Royal Meterological Society
founder

“The British Meteorological Society” was founded on Wednesday 3 April 1850.

On that day, a small group of gentlemen met in the library of astronomer Dr John Lee’s home, at Hartwell House in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England. They gathered “to form a society the objects of which should be the advancement and extension of meteorological science by determining the laws of climate and of meteorological phenomena in general”. Other founding members present that day included James Glaisher (pictured right) and Samuel Charles Whitbread, who was the Society’s first President.

The next meeting took place on 7 May 1850, by which time the number of members had increased to 90 individuals, and included famous meteorologist Luke Howard, known for naming clouds.

The Society became “The Meteorological Society” in 1866 when it was incorporated by Royal Charter, and the “Royal Meteorological Society” in 1883, when Her Majesty Queen Victoria granted the privilege of adding ‘Royal’ to the title.

 

Membership Growth

In 1900, the year of the Society’s golden jubilee, the number of members exceeded 600. Amalgamation with the Scottish Meteorological Society took place in 1921, with member numbers increasing to 904 that year. After 1921, the annual subscription was raised from £2.00 to 3 guineas (£3.15).

In May 1946, the Society’s monthly magazine, Weather, was first published. After World War II, numbers continued to increase, reaching 1,714 in 1947. The increase in membership both during and after the war resulted from a heightened interest in meteorology, especially amongst those who served in the Royal Air Force.

Membership numbers peaked at 3,691 in 1997, comprising a mix of meteorologists, both amateur and professional, from around the world. HRH The Prince of Wales became the Society’s Patron in 2002. In 2015, the Society celebrated its 165th anniversary.

Today, the Society is open to anyone with an interest in observing and understanding weather and climate with around 3,400 members. The Society remains dedicated to advancing meteorology and climate science through a broad programme of activities.

The Society Archive

The Society's archive is located in Exeter, in the National Meteorological Archive, at the Met Office.

The archive holds rare books, personal papers of notable meteorologists and old meteorological photographs as well as Council and committee papers.

The originals of the Beaufort Wind and Weather Scales are also owned by the Society, and cared for by the team at the National Meteorological Archives www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/

The Society has a dedicated Special Interest History Group. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Society along with the history of meteorology in general, please contact the History Group.

RMetS Past Presidents : 1850 - 2020

Without the dedication and leadership of many distinguished meteorologists and other scientists, the Society would not have survived for over a century and a half. The following is a list of those who have served the Society as President. The list gives the years these people served as President, along with the month and year the pen portrait was published in Weather.  An asterisk indicates that the person is still alive.

 

Name

Period in office

Pen Portrait in Weather

Samuel Charles Whitbread FRS

1850-53; 1864

December 1997

George Leach

1853-55

March 2001

Dr John Lee FRS

1855-57

July 1996

Robert Stephenson MP FRS

1857-58

February 1995

Thomas Sopwith FRS

1859-60

-

Nathaniel Beardmore MInstCE

1861-62

September 2000

Robert Dundas Thomson MD

1863-64

August 1998

Charles Brooke FRS

1865-66

January 1998

James Glaisher FRS

1867-68

November 1995

Charles Vincent Walker FRS

1869-70

May 1998

John William Tripe MD

1871-72

March 1996

Robert James Mann MD

1873-75

January 2001

Henry Storks Eaton MA

1876-77

May 1997

Charles Greaves

1878-79

September 2001

George James Symons FRS

1880-81; 1900

March 1993

Sir John Knox Laughton MA

1882-83

January 1999

Robert Henry Scott DSc FRS

1884-85

September 1994

William Ellis FRS

1886-87

-

William Marcet MD FRS

1888-89

March 1997

Baldwin Latham MInstCE

1890-91

April 1997

C Theodore Williams MD FRCP

1892-93; 1900

December 1992

Richard Inwards

1894-95

August 1995

Edward Mawley VMH

1896-97

April 1998

Francis Campbell Bayard LLM

1898-99

October 1999

William Henry Dines FRS

1901-02

November 2005

Captain David W Barker Kt RNR

1903-04

December 1999

Richard Bentley

1905-06

-

Hugh Robert Mill DSc LLD FRSE

1907-08

April 1994

Henry Mellish CB DL

1909-10

November 1996

Henry Newton Dickson DSc FRSE

1911-12

May 1995

Charles John Philip Cave JP

1913-14; 1924-25

October 1993

Sir Henry George Lyons FRS

1915-17

March 1998

Sir Napier Shaw ScD FRS

1918-19

March 1995 & Nov 2004

Reginald Hawthorn Hooker

1920-21

January 1995

Charles Chree ScD FRS

1922-23

June 1994

Sir Gilbert Walker CSI ScD FRS

1926-27

July 1997

Sir Richard Gregory DSc LLD

1928-29

July 1994

R G K Lempfert CBE MA FInstP

1930-31

September 1996

Sydney Chapman MA DSc FRS

1932-33

October 1994

Ernest Gold DSO MA FRS

1934-35

October 2003

Francis J W Whipple MA ScD

1936-37

September 1993

Sir Bernard A Keen DSc FRS

1938-39

November 1993

Sir George C Simpson KCB FRS

1940-41

October 1995

Sir David Brunt MA ScD FRS

1942-44

September 1992

Gordon Manley MA DSc

1945-46

August 1993

G M B Dobson CBE DSc FRS

1947-48

May 2007

Sir Robert Watson-Watt CB FRS

1949-51

November 1992

Sir Charles Normand CIE ScD

1951-53

January 1993

Sir Graham Sutton CBE DSc FRS

1953-55

-

R C Sutcliffe OBE PhD FRS

1955-57

August 2003

P A Sheppard BSc FInstP FRS

1957-59

-

J M Stagg CB OBE MA DSc

1959-61

May 1994

H L Penman OBE PhD FInstP FRS

1961-63

December 1994

J S Sawyer MA FRS

1963-65

June 2006

G D Robinson PhD FInstP

1965-67

February 1999

F K Hare PhD LLD FRSC

1967-68

March 2003

Sir John Mason CB DSc FRS

1968-70

-

Frank Pasquill DSc FRS

1970-72

April 2000

Robert P Pearce PhD FRSE

1972-74

-

Raymond Hide ScD FRS

1974-76

-

Sir John Houghton DPhil FRS

1976-78

*

John L Monteith PhD FRS

1978-80

-

Philip Goldsmith MA

1980-82

*

Henry Charnock CBE FRS

1982-84

-

Andrew Gilchrist MA

1984-86

*

Richard S Scorer PhD

1986-88

-

Keith A Browning PhD FRS

1988-90

*

Stephen A Thorpe PhD FRS

1990-92

*

Paul Mason PhD FRS

1992-94

*

John E Harries PhD

1994-96

*

David J Carson PhD

1996-98

*

Sir Brian J Hoskins CBE PhD FRS

1998-2000

*

David M Burridge CBE PhD

2000-02

*

Howard Cattle PhD

2002-04

*

Chris Collier DSc CMet FRMetS Cenv

2004-06

*

Geraint Vaughan DPhil

2006-08

*

Dame Julia Slingo OBE PhD

2008-10

*

Tim Palmer, DPhil, DSc, FRS

2010-12

*

Joanna Haigh, DPhil, FRMetS

2012-14

*

Jennie Campbell

2014-16

*

Ellie Highwood, PhD, FRMetS

2016-18

*

David Warrilow OBE, FRMetS

2018-20

*