Notes & Letters

A History of the Wind

by Alain Corbin

With extreme-weather events becoming more common, we’re more conscious than ever of the destructive power of the wind. To watch hurricanes devastate coastal cities and tornados rip apart houses is to witness the full fury of nature’s vital force.

But the wind has many faces, from the gentle summer breeze to the violent storm, and – as ICHM members know well – it has a history too. For centuries, writers and artists have interpreted this inscrutable force, often describing it in terms of the feelings it produced—fear, anger, dread. It was only at the end of the eighteenth century, with the discovery of the composition of air, that our modern scientific understanding of the wind began to emerge. But while science has enabled us to understand the wind and map its currents and flows, the wind has lost nothing of its mysterious force—it still has the power to destroy.

Historians of meteorology will therefore find much of interest in Alain Corbin’s new book A History of the Wind, which provides a sweeping account of the wind; one that looks across centuries of science, art, and literature to fully explore how wind has been understood and represented in our collective imagination.  You can learn more about the book at