Lapham Peak

History of Lapham Peak
Known until 1916 as Government Hill because it was used for government
surveying purposes, Lapham Peak is the highest point in Waukesha County
at 1233 ft. It was purchased by the state in 1905 as part of the farms
acquired
for a tuberculosis hospital. The present 45 foot tower was built in
1940.
I
ncrease A. Lapham (1811
1875), for whom the peak is named, was a New
Yorker who came to Wisconsin in 1836 as an engineer.
He lived in
Milwaukee and traveled the state, retiring
to the
Oconomowoc area where he
resided until his death.
He made a survey of all Indian mounds in the state and was a prolific author
of many Wisconsin scientific topics. Lapham was one of the state’s premier
19
th
century scientist
s
. He was recognized
as a pioneer scholar, engineer,
botanist, geologist, archeologist, conservationist and
meteorologist.
Lapham is best remembered as the father of the United States Weather
Bureau. From this peak
he
recorded many weather observations for his
pioneering wor
k in meteorology, which included publishing isothermal maps
of Wisconsin and working with the Smithsonian Institution as a weather
observer for the Great Lakes region. Concerned with potential storm
disasters
to the
shipping
industry
and Wisconsin
farming
, Lapham proposed
sending weather information from Pike’s Peak, CO, to the Great Lakes
region
.
A
national weather service
was appr
oved by Congress on February
9,
1870. On November 8
th
, working as the assistant to the Chief Signal
Corps Officer, Lapham re
corded the first published national weather
forecast, calling for “high winds and falling temperatures for Chicago,
Detroit and the Eastern Cities.
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