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Origins of Australian Meteorology



The Origins of Australian Meteorology

Appendix 1: Chronological Chart of Early Meteorologists



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The Origins of Australian Meteorology


As the Bureau of Meteorology co-organiser, with Mr Eric Webb of the CSIRO Division of Meteorological Physics and Dr Dick Jensen of the University of Melbourne, of the Melbourne Joint Meteorological Colloquia during the second half of the 1960s, I was pleased to play a part in arranging the first of a new annual series of more formal addresses, under the banner of the Joint Colloquia, on 3 December 1969. This inaugural address was delivered by Dr W. J. Gibbs OBE, Director of Meteorology, on 'The Origins of Australian Meteorology'. The occasion was chaired by Dr C. H. B. Priestley FRS, Chief of the Division of Meteorological Physics, and reported for the Australian Meteorological Magazine by Dr U. Radok, Head of the Meteorology Department of the University of Melbourne. It was a significant event and, for many of those present, provided their first exposure to the achievements of the many outstanding individuals who laid the foundations of Australian meteorology. As Dr Gibbs explains in his preface, the notes he prepared for that occasion provided the basis for his 1975 Historical Note which soon became one of the most widely sought-after publications of the Bureau. I am delighted that they are now, again, available with some additions and updating in the Metarch Papers series and I place on record my thanks to Dr Gibbs for his approval for, and assistance given to, their republication.

If the period covered in this publication was remarkable for the energy and foresight of the founding fathers of Australian meteorology during the colonial period, the following decade which saw the Federation of the States in 1901, the passage of the Meteorology Act of 1906, and the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in 1908, was even more remarkable for the part played by meteorological events and personalities in the early operation of the Federation. As Gavin Souter recalls in his 'Acts of Parliament' (Melbourne University Press, 1988), Clement Wragge's eight day forecast for the opening of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne on 9 May 1901 carried a distinct note of foreboding with the approach of the low pressure system he had named Moloch at the time of its first detection in the Indian Ocean: "We are by no means pessimists; we never believe in taking the minor or negative side of life, but at the same time it must be admitted, in view of Moloch, now looking so ugly and threatening over the lower forties south from the Leeuwin, that matters do not appear very promising for the Melbourne celebration". And just a day before the important event, the updated forecast was little better: " . . . unless some law comes into play different to those with which we have had to deal, the northern side of Moloch will surely cause wet and nasty weather at Melbourne on the occasion of the opening of the Federal Parliament".

People in Bright Sparcs - Priestley, Charles Henry Brian (Bill); Wragge, Clement Lindley

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Gibbs, W. J. 1998 'The Origins of Australian Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 12 June 1998, Bureau of Meteorology

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