Waters of the World

From the glaciers of the Alps to the towering cumulonimbus clouds of the Caribbean and the unexpectedly chaotic flows of the North Atlantic, Waters of the World is a tour through 150 years of the history of a significant but underappreciated idea: that the Earth has a global climate system made up of interconnected parts, constantly changing on all scales of both time and space. A prerequisite for the discovery of global warming and climate change, this idea was forged by scientists studying water in its myriad forms. This is their story.

Waters of the World: The Story of the Scientists Who Unravelled the Mysteries of Our Seas, Glaciers and Atmosphere–and Made the Planet Whole is published by Scribe UK and University of Chicago Press .

Waters of the World sparkles with lyricism and wit. Dry is a gifted storyteller, and her research into the pre-history of Earth system science has turned up gripping tales of risk, adventure, defiance, and discovery. A unique and important book.’

Deborah Coen, author of Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale

In her remarkable Waters of the World, historian Sarah Dry brings to life this chain of researchers who helped to reveal the dynamics of Earth’s planetary systems and humanity’s growing impact on them … it demonstrates how impoverished science might become if stripped of the stories of the people who shaped it.

Ruth Morgan, Nature

‘An account of the two-hundred-year effort to understand the world’s climate system, Waters of the World is not only timely but also one of the most beautifully written books on science that I have seen in a long time. It is one thing to communicate this complex and important topic lucidly, but quite another to make the material seductive, poetic, enthralling. I was left wanting to read John Tyndall’s writings on ice, to hear the epic creak of Alpine glaciers, to go cloud-spotting off Tenerife and float turnips in Scottish lochs. Describing one of the most vital but least visible histories in modern science, and rescuing from neglect a host of pioneers who helped us to see how our planet works, it is a remarkable achievement.’

Philip Ball, author of H2O: A Biography of water and The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China

‘In this cleverly argued and brilliantly written history, Dry traces the interaction between the dramatic careers of six major figures in the history of climatology and the uneven and surprising emergence of a science of climate since the mid-nineteenth century. The book illuminates its history with tales of mountain climbing and dramatic voyages, of tell-tale ice cores and threatening hurricanes. No set of stories could be more urgent now and in need of the care and intelligence with which they are told here. In showing how the focus of these engaging and energetic scientists and their many colleagues gradually shifted from a collective search for the principles of a global climate system to visions of dynamic, interactive, and unstable climates in change, this book has much to teach about the roots of the most reliable knowledge of climate and how it should be best understood in its full historical and cultural setting.”

Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge

“Part history, part biography, part scientific tutorial, part philosophy, Dry humanizes and personalizes the science of climate change as it has evolved over time. By focusing on a wide selection of important contributors dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Tyndall, Smyth, Riehl, Malkus Simpson, Stommel, Dansgaard, and numerous others) the human story emerges from the science. She describes the fits and starts, the emotional elements, conceptual and observational difficulties, and the sheer fun these scientists had along the ay as the understanding of climate emerged as a serious intellectual endeavor.”

Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology