||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle
II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion
III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War
IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present
Chapter 12 - Manufacturing Industry
The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle
This policy is adopted in the present chapter partly because of time limitations and partly because of the very breadth of the field being covered. Even so it would be impossible to deal with every innovative step in every industry that has contributed to the overall development of the nation over the two-century period. Further, details of specific sections of manufacturing industry, such as food and chemicals, are more fully covered as main chapters in this volume. This section, therefore, will be mainly an overall survey, with special concentration on the metal industries. The period will be loosely divided into four periods of fifty years each; the first to just before the gold rushes, the second to just before Federation, the third up to and including the First World War and finally the Second World War and the Post-War period.
As settlement began through transportation from Britain, it is important to look briefly at conditions in the latter country at that time. In Britain in 1788, the Industrial Revolution was, quite literally, developing a head of steam, with technology directed towards the development of prime movers. Wealth in the form of capital was gradually becoming more widely available, and Adam Smith had just published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Further, there was a dramatic rise in the population from around 51/2 million to 11 million in 1800. Britain had been at war with France and the American Declaration of Independence had finally precluded the shipment of convicts to that continent.
Hargreaves' spinning jenny had been developed some twenty-five years earlier in 1764 and the power loom had only just been invented. The Newcomen engine, in a very inefficient form, dates from 1712, or six years after the first successful demonstration of the large scale application of steam by Denis Papin, June 1706, in Germany. While continental steam engine developments were meagre for the next century, the technologies associated with the development of steam power progressed much more rapidly in England. James Watt received his first patent for a steam engine in 1769, a patent which clearly recognised the prior existence of steam engines, and concentrated on improvements. Watt was forced by economic circumstances to join forces with Mathew Boulton, who had a steel works and machinery manufacturing business in Birmingham and together they demonstrated their first steam engines between 1774 and 1776. For the first six years these engines were employed in pumping water from mines, mainly in Cornwall, and 500 were in use by the turn of the century. The most important technological development, however, the conversion of reciprocating to rotating motion, did not occur until the 1780s.
The first steam train built by Trevithick ran in Cardiff in 1805 but was so heavy that it broke the cast iron rails used at that time and it remained for George Stephenson, later with his son Robert, to carry on further developments. They completed a locomotive in 1814 and the first commercial steam train in 1825 for the Darlington to Stockton railway. A planned rail line from Liverpool to Manchester had been held in abeyance for some six years because of violent opposition to the proposal, partly from canal and barge owners and a year after the successful Darlington trials, Stephenson approached an old friend, William Huskisson, to renew a request to Parliament for the line to proceed. This request was subsequently granted and led to trials of Stephenson's now famous Rocket engine. This is recounted here because of an interesting connection with Australia, where the same William Huskisson had been the first Colonial Secretary. History tells us that he returned to England, was associated with the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester railway, and was killed when run over by a locomotive as he stepped across the track to greet the Duke of Marlborough. He is remembered by a plaque in the township of Huskisson, 250 km south of Sydney.
People in Bright Sparcs - Huskisson, William
© 1988 Print Edition pages 849 - 850, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher