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Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales


Lieutenant Dawes

Captain Flinders

Admiral Phillip Parker King

Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane

Dr. Charles Stargard Rumker

James Dunlop

P. E. De Strzelecki

Captain J. C. Wickham

Rev. W. B. Clarke, M.A.

Rev. A. Glennie

E. C. Close

Sir William Macarthur

J. Boucher

S. H. Officer

John Wyndham

William Stanley Jevons

Establishment of Meteorological Observatories

Votes and Proceedings, N.S.W., 1848.

Appendix A.

Appendix B.

Appendix C.

Appendix D.

Appendix E.

Appendix F.

Appendix G.

Appendix H.

Appendix I.

Appendix J.

Appendix K.

Appendix L.

Appendix M.

Appendix N.

Appendix O.

Appendix P.

Appendix Q.

Appendix R.

Appendix S.

Appendix T.

Appendix U.



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Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales, 1778-1860

This Paper has not received the final corrections of the Author, owing to a mistake for which he is not responsible.


Thursday, August 30.

The President, Mr. R. L. J. Ellery, F.R.S., in the Chair.
The following papers were read:
3.—Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales, 1778 to 1860.
By H. C. Russell, F.R.S., Government Astronomer.

The following pages contain the result of an attempt, made in the midst of other pressing duties, to collect into a concise form the history of what has been done in New South Wales for Astronomy and Meteorology. As it is the first attempt to do so, it is hardly necessary to say that it has involved a considerable amount of trouble, and that many points are not yet fully made out, but a search, specially amongst astronomical publications, has cleared up many points of interest which at one time seemed buried in oblivion. I have also had, through the courtesy of the Principal Under-Secretary and others, access to official records which otherwise would not have been available.

Lieutenant Dawes

In 1786, Nevil Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, in a paper, read before the Royal Society, points out that Halley's celebrated comet of 1682 would re-appear in 1788, and be first visible in the southern skies, and hence it was that a young and energetic Astronomer found himself with all the incongruous surroundings in the first fleet of ships bound to Australia. No time was to be lost in setting up the Observatory, for although the comet was not expected until September 1788, it might be before its predicted time. The only records of his work that I can find are the following, which shews that he determined the latitude and longitude of the Observatory, but nothing is said to lead one to suppose that he observed the comet :—

Colonel Collins in "An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales" (Vol. I, 1798, p. 15, Feby. 1788), says:— "Among the buildings that were undertaken shortly after our arrival must be mentioned an Observatory, which was marked out on the western point of the cove, to receive the astronomical instruments which had been sent out by the Board of Longitude, for the purpose of observing the comet which was expected to be seen about the end of this year. The construction of this building was placed under the direction of Lieut. Dawes, of the marines, who, having made this branch of science his peculiar study, was appointed by the Board of Longitude to make astronomical observations in this country.

"The latitude of the observatory was 33° 52' 30' S.

"The longitude, from Greenwich, 151° 19' 30' E

In August, 1788 (loc. cit. p. 37), an observatory, on the west point of the cove, is mentioned as being in progress this month. Collins adds:—
" 'The observatory, which was erected on our first landing (1oc. cit. p. 75, July, 1789), being found small and inconvenient, as well for the purpose of observing as for the residence of Lieutenant Dawes and the reception of the astronomical instruments, the stone-cutters began preparing stone to construct another, the materials for which were found in abundance upon the spot, the west point of the cove' (Bunkers Hill.)

"In October, 1879 (loc. cit. p. 83), the observatory is said to be in the same place as the magazine; and (loc. cit. p. 189, November, 1791); "A corporal's guard was also mounted daily which had been used as an observatory by Lieutenant Dawes." He must, therefore, have gone before this.

People in Bright Sparcs - Dawes, William; Ellery, Robert Lewis John; Russell, Henry Chamberlain

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Russell, H. C. 1888 'Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales, 1778-1860,' Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science vol. 1, 1888, pp. 45-94.

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