Page 1599
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

Australian Meteorology through the 20th Century


The Origins of Australian Meteorology
In the Beginning
Australia's Meteorological Pioneers
The Lead-up to Federation

Meteorology in the 20th Century

The Weather and Climate of the Twentieth Century

The Great Weather and Climate Events of the Twentieth Century

A Century of Progress in Science and Service


Australian Meteorological Milestones of the 20th Century



Contact us

Australia's Meteorological Pioneers (continued)

At about the same time as Jevons was beginning his studies, a series of remarkable figures arrived on the Australian meteorological landscape (Gibbs 1975). In Melbourne, Georg von Neumayer, a young Bavarian ship's officer, established an observatory at Flagstaff Hill in 1856 (Figure 2) and maintained a meticulously compiled set of meteorological observations until he left Australia in 1863, when his work was taken over by Robert Ellery. In 1855, Charles Todd, aged 30, arrived in Adelaide from Cambridge as Superintendent of Telegraphs. Over the succeeding decades he constructed telegraph lines to New South Wales, Victoria and Darwin, establishing meteorological stations all the way. He organised the realtime collection of the data by telegraph and began the preparation of synoptic maps.

Flagstaff Observatory

Figure 2 The meteorological stand of Georg von Neumayer's Flagstaff Observatory established in Melbourne in 1856.

With the ability to collect meteorological data by telegraph established, the 1870s, 80s and 90s saw the increasing use of synoptic charts of pressure, wind, temperature and rainfall for daily weather forecasting. On 5 February 1877 the NSW Government Meteorologist, Henry Chamberlain Russell, published Australia's first newspaper weather map. Russell went on to become one of the leading scientific figures in the colony, becoming the first President of the then Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1888. Clement Wragge was appointed Government Meteorologist in Brisbane in 1887 and quickly emerged as the most colourful and controversial meteorologist on the Australian scene. He also became involved in controversial experiments in rainmaking and introduced the practice of naming Southern Ocean storms and tropical cyclones, initially after mythological figures, but later after politicians who incurred his displeasure.

The Lead-up to Federation

Already by the 1870s, the need for standardisation and coordination of data collection was becoming apparent, and intercolonial meteorological conferences were held in Sydney in 1879 and in Melbourne in 1881 and 1888 aimed at achieving national uniformity in observational practices, improving the telegraphic collection of weather bulletins and ensuring that weather forecasts and bulletins issued by the separate colonial observatories were confined to their own colonies. By and large, these arrangements worked well. Only Clement Wragge in Queensland continued to defy the understandings reached, and despatched his forecasts far and wide throughout Australia. It was becoming clear, however, that the weather did not recognise the colonial boundaries and that meteorology should become a Commonwealth function on Federation. Because of the long-standing links between the meteorological and astronomical activities of the colonies, astronomy was eventually included along with meteorology in the provision of Section 51 (viii) of the Constitution that the Commonwealth Parliament would have the power to make laws 'for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to . . . astronomical and meteorological observations'.

People in Bright Sparcs - Ellery, Robert Lewis John; Jevons, William Stanley; Neumayer, Georg Balthazar; Russell, Henry Chamberlain; Todd, Charles; Wragge, Clement Lindley

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

© 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