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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851
i The land and its resources
ii Aboriginal use of resources
iii The arrival of Europeans with their technology
iv Technological adaption for human survival
v Technological adaption for economic survival

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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Technological adaption for economic survival

The first opportunities available to the new settlers for selling their farm produce were given by markets within the local community and by purchases of grain and meat by the government commissariat to provide rations for the convicts and the government establishment. Sales to the commissariat were paid for in Treasury Bills and provided the main source of foreign exchange for about the first four decades. When these limited markets were fully supplied, however, there was no further outlet for surplus produce and prices fell sharply. Conversely, the periodic ravages of floods, drought and pests, or the sudden arrival of large numbers of convicts, led to temporary shortages and sudden increases in prices.

From an early period, to relieve their dependence on the local and commissariat markets, settlers looked for possible products to export to Britain or other countries; because of the distances to potential markets, goods had to be non-perishable. Up to 1820 small quantities of coal, timber, flour, wool and Fijian sandalwood were occasionally exported, but the most profitable exports were products obtained from seals and whales. Substantial quantities of seal skins were exported to the United Kingdom until the 1820s and, after the removal of heavy duties on UK imports during that decade, whale oil became an important colonial export and continued to be so throughout the 1830s.[11]

In 1797 twenty six Spanish Merinos were shipped from the Cape of Good Hope to Sydney, although only about ten survived the voyage. These sheep were the progeny of four ewes and two rams which had been presented to the Dutch by the King of Spain in 1789 and subsequently sent by them to the Cape. Both Captain John Macarthur and the Rev. Samuel Marsden were among those who obtained sheep from this shipment and by 1803 each had been in contact with Sir Joseph Banks about the breeding of Merino sheep in the colony. In 1800 Macarthur sent Sir Joseph eight fleeces of various breeding including one from a pure-bred Merino, while in 1803 Marsden wrote requesting Sir Joseph to send him two Merino rams. Both men, when subsequently visiting England, obtained Merinos from the King's flock. Both in England and New South Wales, Macarthur became a strong advocate of the Australian colonies as the future suppliers of fine wool to Britain and he drew the attention of wool merchants to this possibility at a time when supplies from Spain were being disrupted by the Napoleonic invasion, but in the short-term he was overoptimistic .[12]

By about 1815 hairiness had been bred out of most of the colonial sheep but the predominant market was for meat and it was not until the 1820s that there was a general interest in breeding sheep for the overseas fine-wool market. As this interest developed, numbers of English-bred Spanish Merinos (Anglo-Merinos) from flocks founded mainly with animals from the King's flock, were imported into the colony. One English breeder of note, Thomas Henty, exported numbers of Merinos to the Australian colonies during the 1820s and, at the end of that decade, emigrated himself to Van Diemen's Land, taking his Merinos with him.[13]

During the second half of the 1820s colonial growers also began to buy breeding stock from Saxony. Spanish Merinos had been introduced there in the eighteenth century, particularly in 1765, when Elector Xavier of Saxony had received a gift from the King of Spain which formed the foundation flock of the 'Electoral' Merinos. From 1775 a Negretti type of Austrian Merino had also been developed from Spanish imports and, as Merino breeding declined in England during the 1830s, the German Merinos became the predominant source of imports into Australia.

People in Bright Sparcs - Banks, Sir Joseph; Henty, Thomas; Macarthur, Capt. John; Marsden, Rev. Samuel

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 4 - 5, Online Edition 2000
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