Symons, G J

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George James Symons


George James Symons (Pimlico, London) 1838 - (London) 1900


G J Symons was the only child of Joseph Symons by his wife, Georgina Moon. He was born at Queen's Row, Pimlico, on 6 August 1838. His education, begun at St. Peter's collegiate school, Eaton Square, was completed under private tuition at Thornton rectory, Leicestershire. He subsequently passed with distinction through the course at the school of mines, Jermyn Street.

From boyhood, he made observations on the weather with instruments of his own construction, and at the age of seventeen became a member of the Royal Meteorological Society. From 1863, he sat on the council, acted as secretary 1873-9 and 1882-99, and was elected president in 1880 and again in 1900. In 1857, he undertook, and continued to discharge until his death, the duties of meteorological reporter to the registrar-general, and was appointed by Robert FitzRoy in 1860 to a post in the meteorological department of the board of trade, which he held for three years. He resigned it owing to the growing exigencies of his rainfall observations.

He was a prominent member of various committees appointed by the British Association, and as secretary to the conference on lightning rods in 1878 shared largely in the four years' task of compiling its report. Elected in 1878 a fellow of the Royal Society, he acted as chairman of the committee on the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, and edited the voluminous report published in 1888. He sat on the council of the Social Science Association in 1878, and on the jury of the Health Exhibition in 1884; was registrar to the Sanitary Institute from 1880 to 1895, and drew up a report on the 1884 Colchester earthquake for the Mansion House committee. In 1876, he received the Telford premium of the Institution of Civil Engineers for a paper on Floods and Water Economy, and in 1897 the Albert medal of the Society of Arts for the 'services rendered to the United Kingdom' by his rainfall observations.

He was a member of the Scottish and Australasian Meteorological Societies, of the Royal Botanic Society, and of many foreign learned associations. Twice elected to the council of the Societe Météorologique de France, he frequently attended its meetings at Paris, and was made, in 1891, a chevalier of the legion of honour.

Struck with paralysis on 14 February, he died on 10 March 1900, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Symons began, in 1863, the issue of a monthly rain-circular, which developed in 1866 into Symons’s Monthly Meteorological Magazine which became the Meteorological Magazine in 1920, which ceased publication in 1993. The first of a series of thirty-nine annual volumes containing statistics on the subject was published by him in 1860 ; it included records from 168 stations in England and Wales. In 1898, the number of stations had grown to 3,404, of which 436 were in Scotland and 186 in Ireland, and they were manned by an army of over three thousand volunteer observers. This unique organisation was kept by Symons under close personal supervision, and the upshot was the accumulation of a mass of data of standard value, unmatched in any other country. The sanitary importance of water-supply was a determining motive for its collection.

The British Rainfall Organisation was transferred to the Meteorological Office in 1919. Publication of the annual summary of British Rainfall continued until 1991.

Reference Material[edit]

Taken from George James Symons wikipedia page

Clerke, Agnes Mary (1901). "Symons, George James". In Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Stephen Burt, 2010, British Rainfall 1860 - 1993, Weather 65(5):121–128

Major Publications[edit]

British Rainfall (1860 - 1899), continued by Hubert Sowerby Wallis (1872-1901), Hugh Robert Mill (1901-1919), Mortyn de Carle S Salter (1897-1923) and John Glasspoole (1916-1957)

Rain: how, when, where, why it is measured, London, 1867.

Pocket Altitude Tables, London, 1876, &c., three editions.

The Floating Island in Derwentwater, London, 1889.

Merle's MS. Consideraciones Temperiei pro 7 Annis 1337-1344, reproduced under his supervision, London, 1891 [see Merle, William],

Theophrastus on Winds and Weather Signs, edited from John George Wood's translation, London, 1894. Mr. Benjamin Daydon Jackson's 'Vegetable Technology,' London, 1882, was based upon a catalogue of works on applied botany published by Symons in the Colonies and India for 13 September 1879.

A report drawn up by him in 1861 on the anemometry of Bermuda appeared in the eighth number of the meteorological papers issued by the board of trade.


Harvey Rodda et al., 2009, A digital archive of extreme rainfalls in the British Isles from 1866 to 1968 based on British Rainfall, Weather, 64(3): 71–75

Patrick McSharry et al., 2013, Quantifying flood risk of extreme events using density forecasts based on a new digital archive and weather ensemble predictions, QJRMS, 139, Issue 671, Part B: 328–333