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In The Weather's Face the philosopher Ralph Jewell creates a fascinating and compelling portrait of Vilhelm Bjerknes, an internationally prominent Norwegian physicist, who today is largely remembered for developing the Bergen School of Meteorology. Drawing copiously on Bjerknes's letters and writings most of them translated into English for the first time Jewell's telling of the Bjerknes story has a poetic immediacy that enthrals the reader. Through Bjerknes's experiences and thoughts, as well as Jewell's own reflections derived from a profound understanding of the history and philosophy of science, the reader learns about the making and living of science in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, crucial aspects that are now often neglected or underestimated: the role of the individual, of personality and creative inspiration, of communicative style spoken and written, of community and team-building, and of mediating intellectual leadership.
In all these aspects Vilhelm Bjerknes embodied special qualities and abilities that enabled him (and his co-workers) to achieve remarkable scientific successes, most especially a method of viewing and understanding weather behavioufr, which laid the groundwork for scientific prediction of that intractable natural phenomenon.
Jewell's sensitive and thoughtful account is a stimulating contribution to the history and philosophy of modern science and culture in Norway, Europe and North America, and not least in Bergen. I enthusiastically recommend his work to both specialists and non-specialists.
William H. Hubbard, professor emeritus of modern European history, Concordia University (Montreal) and University of Bergen.
Ralph Jewell was born in Falmouth, UK, in 1940.
Following extensive studies in the natural sciences as well as in philosophy, the history of science and psychology at the universities of London and Leicester, he embarked in 1964 on a long and distinguished career in teaching and research at the University of Bergen, Norway.
His fascination with and research into Vilhelm Bjerknes and the Bergen School of Meteorology led him to locate and preserve from oblivion numerous primary sources pertaining to their groundbreaking work.
Ralph Jewell was also the main driving force behind the Introductory Programme for international students that was initiated in the mid-1970s at the University of Bergen. His wide literary and philosophical interests, together with his deep understanding of the place of storytelling in the human experience, transformed his seminars into spaces where students from all over the world discovered that a university is truly a place to find one s intellectual fortune.