The meteorological Office has its origins in 1854 when an experimental government department, which was later to become the Met Office, was set up under the Board of Trade. Its aim was to research the possibilities of forecasting the weather, mainly to protect the safety of ships and their crew at sea. Distinguished naval captain, Robert FitzRoy, was chosen to head up the department. He had already enjoyed an illustrious career at sea, including commanding HMS Beagle on its five-year world voyage. His job under the new department was to establish meteorology as a science and he set about developing the fundamental techniques of modern weather forecasting. He was spurred on by tragedies such as the sinking of the Royal Charter in 1859 - wrecked off the coast of Anglesey in a fearsome storm with the loss of nearly all the 500 passengers on board.
The introduction of wireless telegraphy on ships in 1909 was a major milestone for the Met Office as this allowed observations and forecasts to be quickly transmitted, significantly improving the service the office could offer. During the First World War, understanding the weather and being able to forecast it could help provide a military edge, so the office was taken under the wing of the Air Ministry, later the Ministry of Defence, after the war. In the 1960s, the satellite revolution provided a quantum leap in weather forecasting providing a bird's-eye of how the atmosphere moves. In 1977 the first European weather satellite, Meteosat 1, was launched.
On 2 April 1990, the Met Office became an executive agency within the Ministry of Defence. In 2004 new headquarters in Exeter officially opened and were fully operational. Today the agency provides meteorological services for the Services departments and civilian purposes.