Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 714-716

Date:

Ferrel, William

  • Patricia S. WhitesellAffiliated withUniversity of WisconsinUniversity of Michigan Email author 

BornBedford (Fulton) County, Pennsylvania, USA, 29 January 1817

DiedMaywood, Kansas, USA, 18 September 1891

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Ferrel, William. Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Central Library

William Ferrel was a self-taught American meteorologist and geophysicist best known for his maxima and minima tide-predicting machine, for Ferrel’s law, and as the father of geophysical fluid dynamics. He was the son of Benjamin Ferrel, a farmer and sawmill operator; his mother’s maiden name was Miller. In 1829, the family relocated from Pennsylvania to a farm in Berkeley County, Virginia (today Martinsburg, West Virginia). William attended public schools and worked on the family farm. His curiosity about the scientific world around him made him a passionate reader on mathematics, surveying, and mathematical physics. With money saved from teaching, he attended Marshall College in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, beginning in 1839, and later transferred to the new Bethany College, Bethany, Vi ...

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