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Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
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The Case of Meteorology, 1876-1908


Early Colonial Weather Reporting

The Impact of the Telegraph

Beginnings of Intercolonial Co-operation

The Intercolonial Meteorological Conferences

The Role of Clement Wragge

Towards a Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology





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Science and Technology in the Story of Australian Federation: The Case of Meteorology, 1876-1908


Under the Australian Constitution, the newly federated states of the Commonwealth of Australia automatically ceded power over customs to the Commonwealth at its inception, and over defence, the postal service and telecommunications on dates to be determined by proclamation. In certain other cases, although the Constitution gave powers to the Commonwealth, it required the federal parliament to enact special legislation before these powers could be exercised.[1] Among the powers listed in this category were 'astronomical and meteorological observations'. Five years after federation, the second Deakin government introduced a Meteorology Bill providing for a federal meteorological department. This was debated on 20-21 June 1906 in the Senate and on 1 August 1906 in the House of Representatives.[2]

The legislation provided for the appointment of a Commonwealth Meteorologist. It did not, however, include references to 'astronomical observations' and thus severed the close ties that had existed, in Australia as elsewhere, between meteorology and astronomy. The wisdom of this was challenged by several speakers, but on this point the Bill passed unaltered. Following advertisement, Henry Ambrose Hunt, Acting Meteorologist in New South Wales since 1904, was appointed Commonwealth Meteorologist and transferred to Melbourne to take up the position on 1 January 1907.[3]

People in Bright Sparcs - Hunt, Henry Ambrose

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Home, R. W. and Livingston, K. T. 1994 '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, pp. 109-27.

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