Too Near for Dreams

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Too Near for Dreams

The Story of Cleveland Abbe, America's First Weather Forecaster
Sean Potter
Copyright: 2020
ISBN: 978-1-944970-56-7
List Price: $45.00
Member Price: $30.00
Student Price: $30.00

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Title information

Pages: 424
Language: English
Publisher: American Meteorological Society
Average: 5 (1 vote)

In the fall of 1869, a thirty-year-old astronomer from New York named Cleveland Abbe, who had recently taken over as director of the fledgling Cincinnati Observatory, became the first person in America to successfully provide regular, practical weather forecasts for the public. Less than two years later, he would lead the forecasting efforts at the nation’s newly established weather service.

Set against the backdrop of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century international events and scientific advancements, this first-of-its-kind biography of Abbe explores both his personal life and his scientific career, including his time spent in Russia in the mid-1860s, as the American Civil War raged and the President was assassinated. Decades of diaries and correspondence from the Library of Congress, as well as first-person accounts, illuminate this intimate portrait of a mild-mannered family man whose thirst for knowledge drove him to become a giant in an emerging scientific field.


Author’s Note 
Key Figures in the Life of Cleveland Abbe 

1 Early Years (1838–1860) 
2 Cambridge (1860–1864) 
3 Pulkovo (1864–1866) 
4 Cincinnati (1867–1870) 
5 The Birth of a Weather Service (1869–1877) 
6 Science and Service (1878–1908) 
7 Final Years (1909–1916)

Biographical Timeline of Cleveland Abbe 


Sean Potter

Sean Potter is a meteorologist, science writer, and weather historian, whose career has included work for ABC News and the National Weather Service. He holds both consulting and broadcast certifications from the American Meteorological Society and is a contributing editor of Weatherwise.

Author Comment Rating

I've been increasingly drawn to Cleveland Abbe over the years through reading historical literature, but I've not seen any biography written about him. This year brings us "Too Near For Dreams", and I snapped it up as soon as it was available. The book is thorough, well-written, and engaging. The level of detail that the author put into the story-telling really makes this a book worth owning.

For those who don't know, Abbe helped in the creation of the predecessor to the National Weather Service. He helped found the journal Monthly Weather Review and turn it into a scientific journal rather than just a monthly collection of weather data. He wrote about the need for an "American Meteorological Society", 21 years before the present society was founded in 1919.

One aspect that made this a biography a bit outside the typical one is the historical tangents that reveal aspects of the nature of life when Abbe lived. The author is a self-described Russophile, so revels in telling the story of Abbe's time in Russia. Despite the depth of the story, the book did not drag, not even during his early life.

"Too Near for Dreams" is one of the best biographies that I've read in the past 20 years. I highly recommend it.