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Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

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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Introduction (continued)

In May of that year, Hunt presided over a conference of the state meteorologists and several academic scientists, with two representatives from each of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and one each from Western Australia and Tasmania.[4]

Queensland was not represented, despite the high profile its meteorological service had taken during the previous two decades under the administration of Clement Wragge, whom many, including Wragge himself,[5] had regarded as the obvious choice for the new Commonwealth position. The object of the meeting was to recommend ways of facilitating the work of the new Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau and, Queensland's absence notwithstanding, it was a success. At the end of 1907 all the states surrendered their meteorological departments to the Commonwealth Bureau, which from the beginning of 1908 administered Australia's meteorological services.

This smooth transfer of meteorological services from the States to the Commonwealth followed many years of generally fruitful collaboration between the formerly separate colonies over their astronomical and meteorological activities. As with the extensive intercolonial consultation that began long before federation over posts and telegraphs and associated services, there was co-operation but also some rivalry. There were at least twenty-one intercolonial post and telegraph conferences between 1867 and 1900, involving the relevant ministers and their departmental heads.[6] As for meteorology, three intercolonial conferences were held, in 1879, 1881 and 1888. Such meetings helped pave the way for the more wide-ranging intercolonial constitutional conventions of the 1890s. They were held because it was recognized that a degree of cooperation between the colonies was necessary if these services were to adapt to the latest technical developments. In other words, the separate colonies, normally jealous of their rights, were here driven together by scientific and technical considerations, the role of which in the movement towards federation is too often overlooked by historians.[7]

People in Bright Sparcs - Hunt, Henry Ambrose ; Wragge, Clement Lindley

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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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