When Torricelli invented the mercury barometer in 1644, he gave a novel gauge to the world of meteorological medicine.
A decrease in atmospheric pressure, the calm before the storm, had been associated with pain since the Golden Age of Greece. Theophrastus, one of Plato's students, knew that "if the feet swell, there will be a change to the south wind."
Theophrastus understood, without a barometer, what Dr. Clarence Mills, claimed to discover almost a century ago. Mills was an Ohio physician who hypothesized that the history of the whole world could be explained by highs and lows in temperature and barometric pressure.
Theophrastus thought hurricanes could be foretold by a shooting pain in the right foot. Dr. Mills theorized that such discomfort might indeed be related to dropping barometric pressure.
In addition, claimed the Ohio doctor, "People subject to severe headaches or fainting spells, most often have their attacks when the barometer is falling. Attempts at suicide are then much more likely to occur as well." People are more forgetful at those times too, he suggested.
And less able to concentrate. Traffic and industrial accidents increase, and, not of least importance, childbirths multiply.
But when the north wind blows, “when fair weather and a rising barometer are standing by as your allies,” then, Mills declared, it is time to make your calls, prepare your most complex proposals, and “attack your most difficult problems.” And to double the beneficial barometric effect, he explained, one should do all this “on the mornings of rising pressure days, when, to the favorable weather, there is added the barometer's daily climb from its post midnight low.”
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fourth week of late spring. In the meantime, check the barometer every day. See if Theophrastus and Dr. Mills are right.