||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
I Technology Transported; 1788-1840
II Technology Established; 1840-1940
III The Coming Of Science
i Education for Food Technology
ii Research Institutes
IV From Science To Technology: The Post-war Years
V Products And Processes
The Coming Of Science (continued)
The fruitful collaboration between Farrer and Guthrie was unique at that time. Until then, no one had thought of combining the skills of the plant breeder with those of the chemist. Farrer's wheat breeding triumphs belong to the story of Australian agriculture and have been recounted many times. There seems little doubt that he was following Mendelian principles before he became aware of the Moravian monk's ideas, but he was able to progress much more quickly than he would have done because of Guthrie's development of laboratory milling techniques combined with the identification and measurement of those chemical parameters of flour which are of importance in the assessment of wheat quality. Guthrie, who in 1892 had been appointed chemist in the new NSW Department of Agriculture, was able to provide vital information from a mere handful of wheat grains and thus to save Farrer the time normally required to grow sufficient for a mill trial.
The potential and often actual lack of comparability between the 'microexperimental' and 'macro-commercial' versions of the same process haunts the scientist in industry. Guthrie developed his milling technique with the help of the head millers of two Sydney flour mills and was able to show that the flour he produced with it was comparable with commercial flour from the same wheat. It was a tedious task but
Guthrie's description of the exacting procedure makes fascinating reading; and further tests were devised to examine flour yield and colour, gluten content and gluten strength, ash, water, water absorption, 'total and soluble albuminoids' (protein) and finally, actual baking quality, for which 100 g. flour was needed.
Guthrie's methods made it easy to compare local with imported wheats and to study the influence of varietal, cultural and handling factors on grain and flour quality. He also contributed to the fundamental understanding of dough 'strength' which he correctly associated not only with the concentration of gluten present but with the relative proportions of the constituent gliadin and glutenin. These he then related to the practicalities of milling. Guthrie's work continued after Farrer's death in 1906 and quite early he was relating quality characteristics to the requirements of the export market. His experimental methods were copied in other Australian States and his unique partnership with Farrer gained for both of them the respect and gratitude of wheat breeders and cereal chemists in other parts of the world. This important Australian contribution to food science remained for many years an isolated case, but to say that is not to deny that there was a growing interest in the application of science to food.
Reference has already been made to government analysts, who were not confined to Victoria, but Victoria by The Public Health Amendment Statute of 1883, provided for the appointment of public analysts by municipal authorities on the English model. This inevitably stimulated an increase in the number of food analysts and in the number and variety of samples analysed in that colony. When, therefore, the Society of Chemical Industry of Victoria (SCIV) was formed on 12 June 1900, many of the 140 persons who joined in the first four months were public analysts; Frederic Dunn and his partner, F. S. Stone, were active members.
People in Bright Sparcs - Dunn, Frederick; Farrer, William; Guthrie, F. B.; Stone, F. S.
© 1988 Print Edition page 114, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher