Page 37
Previous/Next Page
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





Contact us
Towards a Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology (continued)

The agenda for the 1907 conference was drawn up by the newly appointed Commonwealth Meteorologist, H. A. Hunt, and reflected his view that the chief task ahead was bureaucratic, namely to ensure the regular and reliable recording of meteorological data at a far-flung network of observing stations, their prompt transmission to the central station or stations in the system, and their reduction by methods that were by then well established to generate forecasts and, in the longer term, a knowledge of climatological patterns. These were the lines along which the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau worked for many years under Hunt and his successors.

Hunt's view of the subject was not original. On the contrary, it reflected the way meteorology had developed in Australia during the colonial period—dictated at least in part by the sheer size of Australia and the resulting complexity of the bureaucratic tasks that devolved upon a small number of people. Yet not all meteorological work needed to be like this. Elsewhere meteorologists also pursued a research agenda that had been lost sight of in Australia, an agenda that sought to understand the physical behaviour of the atmosphere.

At both of the post-federation meteorological conferences, calls were made for a programme of fundamental research to complement the forecasting and climatologi-cal work. The 1905 conference, while maintaining that meteorology should remain a state-based activity, recommended that 'a Central Institution be established for theoretical and scientific meteorology'. In support, W.E. Cooke argued that

The issue of daily forecasts is undoubtedly useful, but the great problem upon which the principal meteorologists of the world are engaged is the study of the dynamics of the atmosphere ... Those who are occupied with the ordinary routine of the present weather services cannot find the opportunity for this research, which requires the establishment of a separate institution removed entirely from the daily bustle, and specially equipped for scientific investigation.[110]

At the 1907 conference, it was stated to be 'of the first importance that the work of the Meteorological Bureau should not be confined to the accumulation of facts on stereotyped or traditional lines but should be strengthened and vivified by the inclusion of original research'. Were such work neglected, 'Australia will be obliged to follow the lead of the rest of the world, however wrong it may be in regard to her own conditions and purposes'. Moreover, 'research work must not be crushed by routine'. A list of suitable subjects for research was offered to support the proposition.[111] In the event, however, research remained a cinderella within the Bureau, which remained firmly orientated towards the pattern of work established in the pre-federation years.[112]

People in Bright Sparcs - Cooke, William Ernest; Hunt, Henry Ambrose

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

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
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher