Christophorus Buys Ballot
- Category : Science-Chemistry
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Penetration 3
Dutch meteorologist and chemist, the founder of the weather pro-casting Dutch institute KNMI in 1854.
In November 1857 he formulated Buys Ballot's law, that predicts that in the Northern Hemisphere, if a person stands with his back to the wind, the low pressure area will be on his left. For the Southern Hemisphere the reverse applies and a sailor must steer to left (high pressure area) to avoid the centre of the hurricane (low pressure) on the right.
He was the only child of the Christian Minister Anthony Jacobus Buys Ballot (b. 19 March 1786, Middelburg) and Françoise Geertruida Lix Raaven (b. 28 May 1790, Utrecht - 19 Jan 1859), who married 8 March 1815.
His KNAW (Dutch Academy of Science) biographer E. van Everdingen notices that he already as a child counted his toys and the foot steps between his house and school. As an adult he repeated this habit to determine the shortest route between the rail road station and his work. He loved mathematics, but he first had to study languages, especially Latin.
In 1835 he started a study in Letters at Utrecht. At that time Latin was the common language Dutch scientist spoke and wrote in, so for a scientific career one had to study Latin and Greek. But with the advent of natural sciences using terms for which there were no Latin equivalents, modern languages like French and German were introduced in European Universities. Buys-Ballot was one of the first professors who held his inaugural speech in his native Dutch language.
He finished the study Letters on 20 June 1838 with the "candidaats" exam. He wrote an essay on Euripides. He also followed colleges in Mathematics and Physics, but the Utrecht facilities for the exact sciences were very poor at that time. Professors held still there laboratories at home and the disciplines of natural science were not that differentiated as today. So he studied Physics, Astronomy, Mineralogy and Mathematics. The discipline Chemistry was not yet differentiated from Physics and Meteorology did not exist at all. Maybe for these reasons, Buys-Ballot considered him selves more like a natural philosopher and theoretical scientist, than an experimental scientist. As there were no Laboratories to do scientific experiments.
On 28 September 1839 he finished his "candidaats" exam Mathematics and Physics. He was certainly not a fast student as he enjoyed the social aspects of his student time ("Bildung") which was in his romantic time not that time effective ("Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust"). He enjoyed the wisdom in the letters of the ancients, but he studied the "here and now" experiences via the mathematical rules predicted Laws of Natural Sciences that attracted him most.
He dissertated 29 June 1844 1h PM in Utrecht with "Disquisitio physica inauguralis de synaphia et prosaphia". In July 1845 he became lector in mineralogy and geology. 16 November 1847 he was elected as a professor in mathematics. On 6 April 1855 he became a member of the Dutch academy (KNAW) at age 37. In 1867 he became professor in physics, which was his favourite discipline. He held this post till 1888 (age 70), and combined it with a directorship of the by him founded Royal Dutch Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI) that lasted 36 years (1854-1890).
From 14-16 August 1872 he was chairman of an international meteorological congress in Leipzig. 52 meteorologist decided to international cooperation by exchanging weather measurements per telegraph. Synoptic scale meteorology using the measurements of weather stations that were up to 1000 kilometres separated from each other, enabled the accurate prediction of storms via weather cards. Between august and september 1873 the International Meteorological Committee (IMC) was founded , the predecessor of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). From 1873 - 1879 Buys Ballot was the president of the IMC. The first conference was held 23 August 1853 at Brussels.
Buys-Ballot was married twice. First from 27 July 1848 - 7 December 1850 with Elisabeth ("Betsy") Hester Thierry de Bije (b. 4 April 1817, utrecht). They got a daughter Francina Geertruida Jacoba (14 May 1849, Utrecht) and a son Cornelis Sebastiaan (19 November 1850- Juli 1928). On 22 November 1850 Francina died and on 7 December 1850 his wife Betsy. He was suddenly left with a 3 weeks old son Cornelis Sebastiaan, who would become a jurist.
On 24 January 1856 he married Augustina Frederika Carolina Hoogeveen (b. 14 Februar 1827, 20 april 1879, Antwerp). They got six children: Geertruida Antonia (19 May 1858-October 1911), Martinus Quirinus (23 July 1860-20 January 1947), Henriëtte Elisabeth (10 May 1862-1938), two children who died soon after being born and August Christoffel (16 November 1867-15 July 1936).
He died 3 February 1890 in Utrecht.
Since 1888 the Dutch Academy of Science (KNAW) grants once in a decade the Buys Ballot Medal to scientist that contributed to meteorology. The 2004 winner was Edward Norton Lorenz for his contributions to chaos theory ("butterfly effect").