February 2 – Happy Birthday, François-Alphonse Forel

Posted on February 2, 2015

One thing is for sure – our birthday boy, François-Alphonse Forel, did NOT grow up hoping to become a limnologist. As a matter of fact, when he was growing up, there was no such thing as limnology!

Because this Swiss scientist, born on this date in 1841, grew up to invent limnology!

I bet you've never heard of this science before, but it's simply the study of lakes.

Lake Geneva

Forel was born and raised in a town on the shores of Lake Geneva. He worked as a professor of medicine at a university on that same lake. I imagine he was good at his job...

But what he really loved was the lake!

So he ended up investigating the biology of the lake. The chemistry of the lake. The circulation of water in the lake, and the sedimentation (how particles of dirt and sand that are suspended in water settle to the lake bottom) of the lake. Most important, having studied all sorts of physical and life science aspects to the lake, the studied the interrelation of all these things. How did water circulation affect living creatures? How did circulation affect the chemistry of the lake, and the sedimentation process? Forel studied these and many other relationships between living and non-living parts of a lake environment.

Lake Superior, arguably the
largest lake in the world.
He discovered that there were currents of water with different density in Lake Geneva (and, it turns out, all lakes). Sometimes water has different density because it has different temperatures—in other words, cold water flowing into a lake from an ice pack is more dense than the warmer water already in the lake.

Forel also discovered and named seiches, the standing waves that typically occur in lakes and other enclosed or partially enclosed bodies of water.

This is one of my favorite lakes, Crater Lake in Oregon.

Finally, Forel developed the Forel-Ule scale (with another scientist) to evaluated the color of a lake or other body of water. Above is Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. I think it has some of the most beautiful colored water I've ever seen!

Also on this date:

Imbolc in Celtic cultures

Groundhog Job Shadow Day

Ice Cream for Breakfast Day 

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