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Table of Contents

History of Research in the Bureau of Meteorology




Chapter 1: Germination and Growth

Chapter 2: Struggle, Competition and Emergence

Appendix 1: Meteorology Act 1906

Appendix 2: Meteorology Act 1955

Appendix 3: Simpson Report

Appendix 4: Survey Questionnaire

Appendix 5: Bibliography



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"No scientist with a regard for his reputation will ever dare to forecast the weather." Kohlrausch (Ashford [1])

The year 2008 will see the Bureau of Meteorology celebrate its centenary. Yet, in all this time, no one has found the time to properly document even its first fifty years of operation. Mellor's chapter [58] in his volume of the Australian War Memorial series on World War II deals mainly with Bureau activities during that period and Gentilli's work [30] leans heavily towards the colonial experience.

This thesis then, seeks to fill in some of the gaps in the history of the Bureau since its beginning in 1908. In doing this I will not be examining the daily minutiae of the Bureau's operations. Instead, I will concentrate on the changing role of the Bureau within the sphere of government activities. For this reason, my focus will be almost entirely on Head Office in Melbourne, as this is where the majority of the Bureau's scientific activity has been centred and managed. As a result, I realise that I will have to ignore many interesting events in the Bureau's history as they do not bear directly on my particular line of inquiry. Such episodes will have to wait until someone else, with more time and resources than I, can afford to take up the challenge; perhaps when the Bureau sees fit to commission such a project as part of its centenary, if not before.

At its inception, the Bureau was perceived as more of a service organisation, with a focus on the provision of forecasts to the general community, rather than research. This emphasis arose as a result of two different processes. Firstly, a failure to understand the nature of physical research within both the local and international meteorological communities, as implied in the opening quotation, and secondly, the community's perception that government had little role to play other than as a provider of those services, which could not be made available through the normal functioning of the private sector of the economy.

Until the mid to late 1930s, the Bureau was regarded as a backwater within the Public Service and was perhaps somewhat neglected as a result, particularly in the area of finance (Hogan [37]). On the other hand, this indifference did allow the then head of the organisation to place his individual stamp on the Bureau's work, which was reflected in an emphasis on climatological, as opposed to physical research, and a centralisation of the forecasting process.

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Gardner, J. 1997 'Stormy Weather: A History of Research in the Bureau of Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 11 December 1997, Bureau of Meteorology

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