Some of the greatest ideas in meteorology came from individuals in other professions. Luke Howard was a British pharmacist by trade, but in the early 1800’s he submitted a paper called “On The Modification Of Clouds”. In it, Howard defined three major cloud types that we still use today- “cirrus”, “stratus”, and “cumulus”.
He combined these basic types to produce additional classifications- cirrostratus, cirrocumulus, and so on. The beauty of his system was its simplistic use of descriptive terms. For example, the word “cumulus” means “heap”, and describes the piled-up cotton-like appearance of cumulus clouds. The word stratus (which means “a spreading”) describes a layered, flatter type of cloud. Howard’s system was accessible to laymen and scholars alike, and earned him permanent place in meteorological history.