The year 1816 was referred to as the “Year Without a Summer” due to global cooling from a volcano eruption the year before. Snow fell in July and the Northeast U.S. was enveloped in an orange fog
High levels of tephra in the atmosphere led to unusually spectacular sunsets during this period, a feature celebrated in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner. It has been theorised that it was this that gave rise to the yellow tinge that is predominant in his paintings such asChichester Canal circa 1828. Similar phenomena were observed after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa and on the West Coast of the United States following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.The lack of oats to feed horses may have inspired the German inventor Karl Drais to research new ways of horseless transportation, which led to the invention of the draisine or velocipede. This was the ancestor of the modern bicycle and a step toward mechanized personal transport.The crop failures of the “Year without a Summer” may have helped shape the settling of the “American Heartland”, as many thousands of people (particularly farm families who were wiped out by the event) left New England for what is now western and central New York and the Midwest (then the Northwest Territory) in search of a more hospitable climate, richer soil, and better growing conditions.Chichester Canal circa 1828 by J. M. W. TurnerAccording to historian L.D. Stillwell, Vermont alone experienced a drop of between 10,000 and 15,000 people, erasing seven previous years of population growth. Among those who left Vermont were the family of Joseph Smith, who moved from Sharon, Vermont, to Palmyra, New York. This move precipitated a series of events which culminated in the publication of the Book of Mormon and the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.In July 1816 “incessant rainfall” during that “wet, ungenial summer” forced Mary Shelley, John William Polidori, and their friends to stay indoors for much of their Swiss holiday. They decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story, leading Shelley to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus and Lord Byron to write “A Fragment”, which Polidori later used as inspiration for The Vampyre — a precursor to Dracula. In addition, Lord Byron was inspired to write a poem, Darkness, at the same time.Justus von Liebig, a chemist who had experienced the famine as a child in Darmstadt, later studied plant nutrition and introduced mineral fertilizers.