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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)

Let us return to Maury. We have seen that he was the prime mover in convening what was the forerunner of the International Meteorological Organization by arranging the first international meteorological conference in Brussels in 1853. At this conference Maury said 'we are taking part in proceedings which we should vainly seek to parallel in history. Heretofore when naval officers from different nations met in such numbers it was to deliberate in the cannon's mouth the most efficacious means of destroying the human species. Today on the contrary we see assembled the delegates of almost every maritime nation for the noble purpose of serving humanity by seeking to render navigation more and more secure. I think, gentlemen, we may congratulate ourselves with pride upon the opening of this new era'.

In 1861 Maury decided that his allegiance lay with the southern States rather than the north during the Civil War. In 1861 he was appointed Professor of Meteorology at the Virginia Meteorological Institute. Although Maury had many offers of employment in Europe his love of his country kept him in Virginia where he died in 1873 greatly honoured at home and abroad.

Maury and FitzRoy were firm friends and regular correspondents. On 25 February 1859 Maury wrote to FitzRoy 'perhaps you may think it worth while some day to establish . . . meteorological stations on these (Heard's Islands) or some other points in the region of the "brave west winds" of the southern hemisphere. I know of no enterprise in the meteorological way that, at so small an expenditure of time and money, gives promise of richer rewards than this does, both practically to the mariner and scientifically to the philosopher'. Australia established a meteorological station on Heard Island in 1948 which operated for a number of years.

Maury and FitzRoy were not the first to become interested in the physics of the atmosphere but they appear to be among the first to foster the application of atmospheric science to the benefit of mankind. However, both Maury and FitzRoy, although practical men, were also scientists in the true sense. Halley in 1668 and Hadley in 1835 had proposed models for the general circulation of the atmosphere. But Maury made a significant contribution in this field and Ferrell, inspired by Maury's work, went on to propose the idea of the conservation of angular momentum, which was a milestone in meteorology.

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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