Henry Francis Blanford was born in London on 3 June 1834. He enrolled as one of the first students of the Royal School of Mines when it was established in 1851. Henry, along with his brother William, joined the Geological Survey of India and they both came to Calcutta in September 1855. Henry Blanford served the Geological Survey of India for seven years during which he studied the coalbeds in Orissa and the cretaceous beds near Trichinopoly and Pondicherry. However, the arduous physical work badly affected his health and in 1862, he resigned from the GSI and joined the Presidency College in Calcutta as a professor of science.

Blanford developed an interest in meteorology when eastern India was hit by a severe cyclone in 1864, killing 70,000 people and badly damaging the Calcutta port. Blanford investigated the storm and jointly authored a report which led to the setting up of a storm warning system for Calcutta port. In 1867, Blanford was appointed Meteorological Reporter to the provincial Government of Bengal at Calcutta. When in 1875, the India Meteorological Department was established and all meteorological activities in the country were brought under it, Blanford was chosen to head the new organization as Imperial Meteorological Reporter to the Government of India, a post now known as the Director General of Meteorology.

Blanford made the first ever attempt at seasonal forecasting of Indian monsoon rainfall and his paper on its correlation with the Himalayan snow was published by the Royal Society. (“On the connection of the Himalayan snow with dry winds and seasons of droughts in India”, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 37, 3-22, 1884).

Prominent among the many publications of H. F. Blanford are: “Indian Meteorologist’s Vade Mecum” (1875), “Rainfall of India” (Memoirs of India Meteorological Department, 3, 658 pp., 1886), and “Climates and Weather of India” (1889). 

The Gastrell-Blanford Report of 1866 is available in its entirety on Google Books. To read online or download it as a pdf file, click on the thumbnail below:

Blanford became a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1862 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1880. He served as honorary secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1864 and became its President in 1884-85. After his retirement from IMD in 1888, Blanford resided at Folkestone in England until his death on 23 January 1893.

(This post is based on material gathered from internet and print sources and may be in need of some correction.)

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