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The Tempest Prognosticator (aka Leech Barometer)
Status: Real device (whether it worked is undetermined)
image Students of the history of meteorology may be aware of the Tempest Prognosticator of Dr. George Merryweather, but it was news to me. The Tempest Prognosticator was a device invented in the mid-nineteenth century that allowed the forecast of storms, via leeches. Apparently there's been some debate about whether this contraption actually existed, but author Paul Collins, on his blog, confirms that it did. In fact, it was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Here's how it worked:

The "Tempest Prognosticator" consisted of twelve pint bottles of white glass, round the base of a circular stand, at the top of which was a bell surrounded by twelve hammers. Each bottle was connected with one of the hammers through a metal tube in its neck, containing a piece of whalebone and a wire, to which was attached a small gilt chain. Here is the inventor’s description of how the Prognosticator works: "After having arranged this mouse trap contrivance, into each bottle was poured rain water, to the height of an inch and a half; and a leech placed in every bottle, which was to be its future residence; and when influenced by the electromagnetic state of the atmosphere a number of leeches ascended into the tubes; in doing which they dislodged the whalebone and caused the bell to ring."

Paul Collins also reports that some guy has built a working replica of the Prognsticator, and has it on display at the Barometer World Museum in Devon, England. No word on whether it actually worked.
Categories: Animals, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 09, 2006
Comments (3)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
So ...
Does the working model work?
Posted by Big Gary in the northern hemisphere  on  Mon Jan 09, 2006  at  04:10 PM
What, exactly does this thing "prognosticate"? Thunderstorms? I Did a bit of leech reading on the internet (Wikipedia and other sites) and no mention of leeches being influenced by the atmospheres electromagnetic state. I'm not saying it's BS, but it does have a suspicious fertelizer aroma to it.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  07:37 AM
I saw the working model on TV. It was presented by Adam Hart Davis.

Here's a link to it
Posted by Chris Clark  on  Tue Feb 07, 2006  at  10:01 PM
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