There is a fascinating history of science article that discusses the measurement of C02 emissions and the role a campfire in Big Sur played.
“Science historian Spencer Weart describes the Keeling Curve as “the central icon of the greenhouse effect.” It was, he writes in his book, The Discovery of Global Warming, “not quite the discovery of global warming. It was the discovery of the possibility of global warming.”
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Its origins can be traced to a campsite in Big Sur, California. In 1953, Charles David Keeling was a young postgraduate geochemist embarking on a study to compare the relative abundances of carbon dioxide in water and air. To do that, he first had to measure the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, which, to that point, nobody had done to any great precision. And because nobody had done it, there was no off-the-shelf equipment readily available to do so. So, Keeling made his own instrument, working from instructions for a prototype he found in a 1916 journal article, and he undertook the day’s drive to Big Sur. Unsure whether the CO2 even in pristine air next to the Paciﬁc Ocean would be constant, he decided to take air samples every few hours over a full day and night, a meticulousness that would characterize his career.
“He lived by a kind of moral code that looked at there being a right way and a wrong way to do things, and the right way was always the thorough way,” explains Ralph Keeling, his son and the Director of the Scripps CO2 Program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.”
To read the rest of this fascinating article, see: https://www.history.com/news/keeling-curve-global-warming-climate-change