Jose P. Algue

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Father Jose Algue, S.J. (1856-1930) was meteorologist, inventor, internationally renowned scientist, and a member of the Jesuit mission to the Philippines. He was the Director of the Manila Observatory and the founder of the first Philippine Weather Bureau during the American period. Fr. Algue was also known for his invention the barocyclonometer, which he perfected in 1897.

Early Life

Fr. Jose Algue was born on 22 December 1856 in Manresa, Spain. He was educated in Spanish schools, entering the Society of Jesus on 17 July 1871 at the Jesuit novitiate in Andorra. After the Jesuit expulsion from Spain, he was sent to Toulouse, France. Later he continued his studies in humanities in 1878 at the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Veruela in Zaragoza province. He remained in that province for 7 years to continue his studies, moving to Tortosa to complete his theology degree.

A momentous meeting with the great Jesuit scientist Fr. Federico Faura in 1889 changed the young Algue's life. He accompanied Father Faura to Italy and France to acquire scientific equipment for the famed Manila Observatory. It seemed that Father Algue was destined for a life of science in the tropics. To this end, his superiors sent him in 1891 to Georgetown university in Washington DC, for advanced studies in meteorology, seismology, and astronomy. Together with his mentor Father Federico Faura, he toured various observatories in America, Europe and Cuba. At the 1893 World's Columban Exposition Spain and the Philippines were represented by the duo.

Philippine Career

After their extended stint in the US, Fathers Faura and Algue arrived in the Phillippines on 3 February 1894, where their scientific collaboration would quickly flower. Algue's first extended study would focus on the destructive [Typhoon|typhoons]. His publication of "Baguios o ciclones filipinos: Estudio teorico-practico" in 1894 was a pioneering account of Philippine climate and storms and would mark a scientific landmark in the Philippines. Such was its importance to navigators that an English version was published in 1904 as "Cyclones of the Far East."

In 1897 Father Algue invented the barocyclonometer, improving on Father Faura's invention, which could foretell of storms in the Philippines and Asia. The instrument became of great use to mariners in the East.

Jesuit Science in the Service of The American Era

Shortly after the Battle of Manila Bay American military commanders recognized the important of Father Algue's work by arranging his personal presentation to Admiral Dewey on board the American flagship, the Olympia, in November 1898. From that day on, Father Algue and the Manila Observatory would become valuable assets in the American colonial enterprise.

To guarantee American success as a colonial power in Asia, Dean Conant Worcester and Charles Denby of the Schurmann Commission would recommend in 1899 the establishment oa Philippine weather service, with Algue as its first director. Algue had already taken over the Manila Observatory the year before upon the death of Father Federico Faura. With the American changeover, the Observatory became a unique institution. Administered directly under American command, the staff remained wholly Spaniard or Filipino, with American Jesuits joining in later.

In 1900 under his direction he would publish the most complete and up-to-date atlas of the Philippines, the result of many years of work.

In 1904 Algue was once again called to help in the St. Louis World's Fair exposition by designing an exhibit to showcase the Philippine Weather Bureau. Working for almost a year starting in November 1903, Father Algue constructed a three-part exhibit, including a giant relief map of the Philippines and surrounding islands, a meteorological installation and a geographical section with information on various regions and tribal groups.

In 1905 Algue returned to oversee the Philippine Weather Bureau dividing the archipelago into four meteorological zones and the establishment ofover 60 weather stations to cover the whole country. Under his direction the Weather Bureau would provide the first systematized warning system of typhoons and cyclones.

Father Algue was also actively consulted in the laying of submarine cables throughout the island and to other Asian regions, including to Guam.

By 1923, in the last years of his life, Algue was responsible for 159 weather stations, as well as 2 magnetic and seismic stations. Typhoon warnings were sent regularly throughout the Philippines and to the observatories of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, which established "Algue's preeminent position within meteorological circles in Asia" and provided " a greater sense of security to shipping and business... from Singapore to Yokohama."

Legacy

Father Jose Algue was invited to present papers at major conferences in Spain, Russia, US, and Austria. He was elected an honorary member of the Royal Meteorological Society based in London on 17 January 1906.

In 1924 he traveled and owing to health problems, retired from the Manila Observatory to return to Tortosa, Spain, where he died on 27 May 1930.

The Manila Observatory became the Philippine Weather Bureau, which was organized on 22 May 1901 by Act No. 131 of the Philippine Commission. The Weather Bureau was placed under the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1917. Under the Commonwealth it was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The Manila Observatory was completely destroyed in World War II. The Weather Bureau was abolished by Presidential Proclamation 1081, better known as the declaration of Martial Law. On 8 December 1972, it was replaced by PAGASA by Presidential Decree No. 78.

For multifarious contributions of Father Jose Algue to Philippine cartography and meteorology both locally and abroad, he was dubbed by the latter-day American scholar James Warren as the "scientific superman."

Bibliography

  • Faura, Federico and Jose P. Algue "La Meteorologia den la Exposicion Columbina de Chicag0." 1894.
  • Baguios o ciclones Filipinos. Imprenta del Observatorio, Manila, 1898. 2nd ed 1900, 3rd ed 1920, 4th ed 1937.
  • Las nubes en el archipielago filipino. Imprenta del Observatorio. Manila, 1899.
  • Atlas de Filipinas. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1900.
  • El Archipielago Filipino (Jose Algue and Jose Close, eds). Government Printing Office, 1900.

References

  • Algue, Fr. Jose in E. Arsenio Manuel "Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Vol. 2" Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1970.
  • James Warren, "Scientific Superman: Father Jose Algue, Jesuit Meteorology and the Philippines under American Rule" in Alfred McCoy's "Colonial Crucible: The Making of the Modern American State"
  • "Algue, Jose," in Agustin Udias Vallina's "Searching the heavens and the earth: the history of Jesuit observatories." Springer, 2003. [1]

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