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Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology

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Meteorology played a proud and prominent part in the lead up to Federation and the Bureau of Meteorology is one of the longest continually operating science and service organisations in the Commonwealth.

Much of the rich history of Australian meteorology has been recorded in a series of Bureau publications over the years, including especially the Metarch series beginning in 1986 on the initiative of former Director of Meteorology, Dr Bill Gibbs. The forthcoming centenary of the Meteorology Act of 1906 and of the commencement of operation of the Bureau of Meteorology as a Commonwealth agency on 1 January 1908 have provided a particular motivation, in recent years, for groundwork on a definitive centenary history of the Bureau.

In 1999, the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, at the University of Melbourne, and the Bureau were successful in obtaining a grant from the History and Education Program of the National Council for the Centenary of Federation (HEP3/209) to undertake a project on Federation and Meteorology. The rationale for undertaking the project was based on the observation of eminent historians of Australian science, R W Home and K T Livingston, that,

… the growth of Australia’s meteorological services has served not only to delineate … the history of science in federating Australia, but also to expose hitherto neglected links with the history of federalism itself. In particular, developments internal to the science of meteorology created demands for co-operation across the political boundaries between the colonies. (‘Science and Technology in the Story of Australian Federation: The Case of Meteorology, 1876-1908’, Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 10, no. 2, December 1994.)

This Federation and Meteorology website is the result of the success of that project. It brings together a range of historical sources and tells the story of the Bureau mainly through the staff of the Bureau themselves, some still serving, but most retired and members of the Frosterley Club – named after the Bureau’s first home, itself a fascinating link with life in nineteenth century Melbourne. There is, of course, a personal side to most of the stories which reflect a Bureau seen through different eyes and recalled from different perspectives. As well as their contribution to these very personal insights into the development of the Bureau, which I believe will be of interest to many with a broader perspective on the history of Australian science, the materials on the website will provide an important foundation for the forthcoming official centenary history of the Bureau.

I am delighted at the results of this partnership between the Bureau and the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and wish all who use this website great pleasure in visiting for the first time, or re-visiting, the twentieth century history of the Bureau.

John W Zillman
Director of Meteorology
November 2001

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