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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > M > Manila Observatory

Manila Observatory

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Founded by Father Frederic Faura, S.J., in 1865; constituted officially The Philippine Weather Bureau by decree of the American governor, May, 1901.

The typhoon, known in the Philippines as baguío, is one of the worst enemies with which the islands have to contend. Father Faura, a Jesuit professor at the Ateneo College, spent many years in the study of these dreaded storms, in the hope of one day being able to foretell their coming and thereby avert much of the damage they would otherwise cause. On 7 July, 1879, he predicted that a baguío would pass over northern Luzon; the event justified his warning. It was the first time that the existence, duration, and course of a typhoon had been existed in the Far East. On 18 November of the same year, Fr. Faura predicted a second typhoon, which he said would pass through Manila. The announcement caused great consternation to the city. Proper precautions were take n, and the captain of the port forbade vessels to leave the harbour. Thanks to Father Faura, comparatively little damage was done in Manila, when, two days later, the storm broke in all its fury on the city. At other ports, to which warning of the approaching storm could not be sent for lack of telegraphic communication, the destruction was enormous. Forty-two vessels were wrecked in Southern Luzon alone, and may lives were lost.

These successful predictions aroused the interests of a number of merchants of the city, who subscribed money to enable him to continue his valuable work on a larger scale. In 1880, when cable connections between Hong Kong and Manila were established, the merchants of the former colony requested that Father Faura's prediction be sent to them, and their request was cheerfully granted. For some time the Jesuit meteorologist had been working on a barometer of his own invention, specially designed to foretell the approach of baguíos. In 1886 the "Faura barometer" was offered to the public, and it passed immediately into general use among the navigators of the Philippine waters and the China Sea. In 1884 the government at Madrid declared Father Faura's weather bureau an official institution, to be known as the Manila Observatory. It was then removed from the Ateneo to its present location in the District of Ermita, Manila. Fourteen sub-station, each equipped with suitable meteorological instruments, were now opened in Luzon, and their daily observations were published in a monthly bulletin. In 1890, at the request of the Japanese government, observations began to be exchanged with that country. In 1895, the Manila Observatory was invited to be one of the sixteen observatories in the world to co-operate in the work of cloud-measurement, and it succeeded in making the highest of these measurements. The photographic measurements were carried on by the Rev. José Algué, S.J., who is now director of the Philippine Weather Bureau. Father Algué published a valuable work. "The Clouds in the Philippine Archipelago", as the result of his observations. His "Philippine Cyclones", a volume much prized by navigators, and which has been translated into several languages, was publish ed in 1897. In the same year he gave the public his "barocyclonometer", an improvement on Father Faura's invention, by which storms may be foretold, not only in the Philippines, but throughout the entire Orient.

The meteorological service of the Philippines was reorganized by Father Algué. The observatory at Manila receives observations by telegraph three times a day from eight first-class and nine second-class stations throughout the islands. Eighteen stations of the third class telegraph their observations twice a day, while ten fourth-class stations record observations and telegraph on request. The observatory has a branch at Mt. Mirador, about 5000 feet above sea level, which telegraphs its observations three times a day. Reports are also received twice each day by cable, from ten stations in Japan, from six in Formosa, from four on the Chinese coast, and from three in Indo-China. Whenever there are indications of a typhoon, cablegrams are exchanged with the stations in Guam and Yap, and on such occasions as many as a half-a-dozen or more messages may be cabled on a single day to all the foreign stations. The observatory, besides a rich equipment of the latest meteorological instruments and seismographs, possesses a 19-inch refracting telescope, by far the largest in the Orient. It also has its own private telegraph and cable office. The staff of the observatory at Manila includes five Jesuit fathers and twenty-five well-trained native assistants.

About this page

APA citation. Finegan, P. (1910). Manila Observatory. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Finegan, Philip. "Manila Observatory." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by M. Donahue.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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