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After centuries of speculative theories about the formation and behavior of clouds, the first truly scientific studies were undertaken by Luke Howard in England and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France. Howard was a methodical observer with a strong grounding in the Latin language, and used his background to classify the various tropospheric cloud types during 1802. He believed that the changing cloud forms in the sky could unlock the key to weather forecasting. Lamarck had worked independently on cloud classification the same year and had come up with a different naming scheme that failed to make an impression even in his home country of France because it used unusual French names for cloud types. His system of nomenclature included 12 categories of clouds, with such names as (translated from French) hazy clouds, dappled clouds, and broom-like clouds. By contrast, Howard used universally accepted Latin, which caught on quickly after it was published in 1803. As a sign of the popularity of the naming scheme, German dramatist and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe composed four poems about clouds, dedicating them to Howard. An elaboration of Howard's system was eventually formally adopted by the International Meteorological Conference in 1891. This system covered only the tropospheric cloud types, but the discovery of clouds above the troposphere during the late 19th century eventually led to the creation of separate classification schemes for these very high clouds.

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