- Year of Discovery: 1640
- What Is It? Air (the atmosphere) has weight and presses down on us.
- Who Discovered It? Evangelista Torricelli
- Why Is This One of the Science Greatest?
It is a simple, seemingly obvious notion: air has weight; the atmosphere presses down on us with a real force. However, humans don’t feel that weight. You aren’t aware of it because it has always been part of your world. The same was true for early scientists, who never thought to consider the weight of air and atmosphere.
Evangelista Torricelli’s discovery began the serious study of weather and the atmosphere. It launched our understanding of the atmosphere. This discovery helped lay the foundation for Newton and others to develop an understanding of gravity.
This same revelation also led Torricelli to discover the concept of a vacuum and to invent the barometer—the most basic, fundamental instrument of weather study.
- Fun Facts: Home barometers rarely drop more than 0.5 inch of mercury as the weather changes from fair to stormy. The greatest pressure drop ever recorded was 2.963 inches of mercury, measured in side a South Dakota tornado in June 2003.
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