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But his real love was the lake; his investigations of biology, chemistry, water circulation, and sedimentation, and most importantly their interactions, established the foundation of a new discipline. In his chief work, Le Léman, published in three volumes between 1892 and 1904, he named his activity limnology in analogy with oceanography ("limnography" could have been confused with the limnograph, which measures water level in lakes).
In collaboration with Wilhelm Ule, developed the Forel-Ule scale, used to evaluate the colour of a body of water. In a totally different field, in cooperation with the Italian seismologist Michele Stefano de Rossi, he developed the Rossi–Forel scale to describe the intensity of an earthquake.
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