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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)

This debate elicited some interesting comments from Ellery about the relationship between colonial and metropolitan science:
The Chairman deprecated following slavishly the paths laid down by the Royal Meteorological Society of England; they were in a different country altogether, and experience in the colony must count for something. He agreed that there should be some uniformity, but he did not agree that because the Stevenson screen had been recommended by the Meteorological Society they should adopt it.

When Ellery suggested it would be better if the stands were made of thin metal louvres instead of wood, Wragge agreed 'but thought a change should not be made until it was adopted by Great Britain'. This was too much for Ellery, who demanded to know 'why they should ignore America, France, and India': indeed, 'seeing that the colonies were leading the way in a great many things, they might well strike out a path for themselves in this matter'.[82]

This pride in colonial achievements emerged again later, when Wragge urged the adoption of the Royal Meteorological Society's definition of the equipment required of a climatological station. Ellery responded, and Russell agreed, that 'every reporting station was, to all intents and purposes, a climatological station', but Wragge insisted that, except for the stations he had founded, there were no climatological stations, 'strictly so-called', in Australia. This was too much for Todd:

Mr Todd said that the experience that Mr Ellery and Mr Russell (and he would not say himself) had had in meteorology had enabled them to establish stations which were quite as reliable and did as much to further meteorological science as if they had followed in every minute degree the rules laid down by the Royal Meteorological Society; and in point of fact, they started their observations long before the Meteorological Society had formulated any special scheme such as that alluded to. As an old meteorologist in England, and one of the earliest members of the British Meteorological Society, he had carried on observations at Cambridge and Greenwich, and they might just as well say that observations conducted at the Greenwich Observatory possessed no scientific value because they did not agree in every respect with the Royal Meteorological Society in England, as to say that the existing stations in the colonies were not meteorological stations in the sense of the Royal Meteorological Society. Their observations possessed quite as great scientific value.[83]

Hector, equally exasperated, suggested that Wragge 'should admit that he had learned for the first time that the work was being done'. Wragge, while insisting that 'he did not desire to cast any reflection on his colleagues', declined to do this.

People in Bright Sparcs - Ellery, Robert Lewis 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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