On Meteorology and Camus

Laura Marris at The Point:

It’s a little-known fact that Camus worked briefly as a meteorologist. For almost a year, from 1937-38, he wore a lab coat at the Algiers Geophysics Institute and catalogued measurements of atmospheric pressure from hundreds of weather stations across North Africa. The data had been piling up, and despite the arrogance of their imperial ambitions, the men who ran the Institute couldn’t attract enough funding. They didn’t have the money to hire a scientist trained for this “exacting and, in effect, stupefying task.”3 Nonetheless, Camus’s supervisor, Lucien Petitjean, was pleased with his work. By the end of his time at the Institute, Camus had plotted curves for 27 years of barometric pressures from 121 weather stations. He also made calculations, averaging monthly meteorological data. This work must have given him a granular picture of the weather, one that was so dry and clinical it was at odds with his experience of the natural world. “Like in all sciences of description (statistics—which collects facts—) the biggest problem in meteorology is a practical problem: that of replacing missing observations,” he wrote in his notebook. “Temperature varies from one minute to the next,” he clarified. “This experiment shifts too much to be stabilized into mathematical concepts. Observation here represents an arbitrary slice of reality.”

more here.