Carbon Dioxide

The Eunice Foote Day Thread (August 2, 2022)

Eunice Newton Foote (1819–1888) was an American amateur scientist whose early experimentation to understand atmospheric gases have proved to be stunningly prescient. It has only been in the last few years her work has been recognised, having been largely forgotten over the past century and a half.

In her 1856 paper “Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays,” one of only two she published, she detailed the results of her simple and elegant experiments:

Using glass cylinders, each encasing a mercury thermometer, Foote found that the heating effect of the Sun was greater in moist air than dry air, and that it was highest of all in a cylinder containing carbon dioxide. Once removed from the light, the cylinder containing carbon dioxide “was many times as long in cooling.”

She concluded: “An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature… must have necessarily resulted.” This was five years before Irish physicist John Tyndall made the same suggestion.

Foote’s scientific career was cut short by her family responsibilities as well as a widening interest in fighting for Women’s Rights, but her papers show for just how long the principles of climate change have been understood.

Eunice Foote
Eunice Foote avec dog

Have a great day everyone!