French mathematician and physicist Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier first hypothesizes that the atmosphere plays a significant role in mediating temperature on Earth
Fourier, in the article “General Remarks on the Temperature of the Earth and Outer Space,” likens the effect of the Earth’s atmosphere in regulating global temperature to a glass covered box: “The temperature [of the Earth] can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light finds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in re-passing into the air when converted into non-luminous heat.” This analogy would ultimately inspire the term “greenhouse effect.”*
*Joseph Fourier, “Remarques Générales sur les Températures Du Globe Terrestre et des Espaces Planétaires.” Annales de Chemie et de Physique 27: 136-67 (1824), translation by Ebeneser Burgess, “General Remarks on the Temperature of the Earth and Outer Space,” American Journal of Science 32: 1-20 (1837). Cited in: Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming: A hypertext history of how scientists came to (partly) understand what people are doing to cause climate change,” January 2017, http://history.aip.org/climate/simple.htm#L_M085; Dr. Weart’s website is a valuable resource for those who would like to delve deeper into climate science. He also offers a rich collection of photographs of key players, graphs, and other illustrations at http://history.aip.org/climate/illus.htm.
Photo: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33502