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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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The Intercolonial Meteorological Conferences (continued)

A third intercolonial meteorological conference was convened at short notice by Ellery in 1888, to take advantage of Hector's presence in Australia for the inaugural Congress of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. Held in Melbourne on 11–15 September 1888, this third conference was very different from the earlier two.[75] It was a more representative gathering, Ellery, Hector, Russell and Todd being joined by Clement Wragge from Queensland, John Forrest from Western Australia and John Shortt from Tasmania. Moreover, the friendly co-operation that had characterized the earlier meetings was disrupted by Wragge, who was to prove a thorn in the side of his fellow colonial meteorologists during the conference and afterwards. Wragge's tactless and confrontationist style severely taxed their patience, as did his introducing numerous agenda items in a way that suggested that the others were out of date with contemporary meteorological practice, when often he was merely ignorant of what they were doing. Above all, they were aghast at his dissent from their well-established practice of leaving the issuing of forecasts in each colony to that colony's official meteorologist.

Wragge, a much younger man, had emigrated to Australia only four years previously. He had made a name for himself among British meteorologists by establishing a meteorological station on Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and climbing up every day for five months in the most arduous conditions during the winter of 1881-2 to take observations. In Australia. Wragge settled initially in Adelaide where he established a private meteorological observatory at his home and another at the top of Mount Lofty. He also founded his own society—named, somewhat pretentiously, the Meteorological Society of Australasia— and claimed an authoritative role as a meteorologist in the city where Charles Todd had long been the leading authority. An ardent and effective self-publicist. Wragge was commissioned by the Queensland government in 1885 to report on that colony's rudimentary meteorological service. A year later he was appointed Queensland's Government Meteorologist, and immediately set about reorganizing and extending the colony's network of observing stations.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science

People in Bright Sparcs - Ellery, Robert Lewis John; Forrest, John; Russell, Henry Chamberlain; Todd, Charles; 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.

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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