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Origins of Australian Meteorology



The Origins of Australian Meteorology
FitzRoy and Maury
Thomas Brisbane
Phillip Parker King
Charles Todd
Ellery and Neumayer
Henry Chamberlain Russell
Clement Wragge
The International Scene
The End of the Beginning

Appendix 1: Chronological Chart of Early Meteorologists



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FitzRoy and Maury (continued)

The 1853 Brussels meeting led to FitzRoy again becoming involved in meteorology. The British Government granted the Board of Trade a sum of money to follow up the recommendations of the conference. The Board of Trade approached the Royal Society, which recommended that FitzRoy should be put in charge of a meteorological office with the title of Meteorologist Statist and with a staff of three. At the same time, in America, Maury was carrying out similar responsibilities with a staff of 20. However, FitzRoy was not content to follow Maury in confining his work to the study of the climatology of the oceans. He realised that the fishermen on the coasts of England and other coasts suffered from the effects of storms. He arranged that they be provided with a barometer and a barometer manual of 50 pages issued by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (price one shilling) which set out clearly and simply all that was known on how to use a barometer and other instruments in the art of weather forecasting. It contained some rhyming advice compiled by FitzRoy in the Beagle days:
when rise begins after low,
squalls expect and clear blow,
and long foretold long last,
short notice soon past.

A great storm in the Black Sea in 1855 which sunk a number of British ships engaged in the Crimean War also alerted responsible men to the advantage of forewarning of such events. In 1859 a very intense storm wrecked the Royal Charter on the Anglesea coast with a total loss of life. This storm and its results affected FitzRoy profoundly. He realised that forewarning was only possible by gathering a series of observations from widely scattered places, recognising that weather phenomena, especially large depressions, retained their identity for a considerable time. Luckily earlier in the century Morse had invented the telegraph and this had provided a means of exchanging this information. FitzRoy began a weather forecasting service for the coasts of Great Britain. He set up 24 stations from which weather information could be telegraphed to him in London. Six of these were in Europe from Copenhagen to Lisbon. He began producing what he called and have ever since been called 'synoptic charts'. In due course he made his forecasts available to the newspapers and they, including The Times, issued for the first time in history a daily weather forecast. FitzRoy also introduced a system of warning cones which were hoisted at ports and harbours and fishing villages when a gale was expected. It is even recorded that Queen Victoria personally made a request for a private weather forecast.

People in Bright Sparcs - FitzRoy, Robert; Maury, Matthew Fontaine

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Gibbs, W. J. 1998 'The Origins of Australian Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 12 June 1998, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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