Wind speed has been described in a variety of ways. Probably the oldest system to gain world-wide acceptance is the Beaufort scale. In 1805, Admiral Beaufort designed as scale to describe the impact of the force of the wind on a man-o-war (or sailing ship). Force 1 is light, force 12 is a hurricane. The Beaufort scale survive when other systems faded because of a series of factors: in 1838 the British navy made its use mandatory within the fleet. In 1837 Samuel Morse developed a working telegraph and in 1847 R. Robinson invented the cup anemometer. In 1854, when a storm in the Crimean Sea did more damage to the French and English navies than the worst battle, the two countries sponsored a weather network. The telegraph would allow rapid communication and the anemometer a uniform measuring instrument. Since the use of the Beaufort scale was mandatory in the British Navy, it became the scale of choice and the rest is history.
Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library