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Origins of Australian Meteorology



The Origins of Australian Meteorology
FitzRoy and Maury
Thomas Brisbane
Phillip Parker King
Charles Todd
Ellery and Neumayer
Henry Chamberlain Russell
Clement Wragge
The International Scene
The End of the Beginning

Appendix 1: Chronological Chart of Early Meteorologists



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Thomas Brisbane

FitzRoy and Maury were still in their teens when one of the first Australian meteorologists came on the scene. Sir Thomas Brisbane was 48 when he first landed in Sydney to take over as Governor of the 33 year old colony of New South Wales. He was a battle-scarred soldier with a distinguished record of military service in many parts of the world. But he was a scientist as well as a soldier, being a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. During his many sea voyages he became interested in navigation and meteorology. In 1821 he established at his own expense an astronomical observatory at Parramatta, a few miles west of Sydney. The routine of the observatory included meteorological observations. Of course these were not the first made in Australia as the logs and journals of the ships of Cook and Dampier, and the Dutch and other navigators before them, contained meteorological observations. But Brisbane appears to have been one of the first to organise systematic meteorological observations from a land based station in Australia. These were made from 1822. However the first meteorological and astronomical observatory was established and operated by Lieutenant William Dawes from September 1788 to December 1791. Dawes' observatory was in the immediate vicinity of the existing site of the south-east pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sir Thomas Brisbane

Sir Thomas Brisbane, 1773–1860

Brisbane's assistant was James Dunlop, who was born in Scotland in 1793 and attended night school while working in a factory. After Brisbane left the colony in 1824 Dunlop continued the observations at the observatory until 1826 and, after the observatory had closed down, maintained observations in his home until 1827 when he left to join Brisbane at an observatory established in Scotland.

In Sydney, Brisbane founded the Philosophical Society of Australia soon after his arrival. As President of the Society he introduced a small fee for membership but required each member to present a scientific paper in rotation, failure to do so bringing a fine of ten pounds (a considerable amount of money)—an interesting system. A further mark of Brisbane's distinction was that he was a Fellow of the Royal Society. Unfortunately with Brisbane's departure the Philosophical Society withered and died.

People in Bright Sparcs - Brisbane, Thomas Makdougall; Dawes, William; Dunlop, James; FitzRoy, Robert; Maury, Matthew Fontaine

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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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