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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 2

I Technology Transported; 1788-1840

II Technology Established; 1840-1940

III The Coming Of Science

IV From Science To Technology: The Post-war Years

V Products And Processes

VI Conclusion

VII Acknowledgements



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The history of modern food technology runs parallel with that of white settlement in Australia and the developments here over those two hundred years may be summarized in the following way. At the end of the eighteenth century Appert had invented heat processing. It was the first major change in food processing for hundreds of years and it began as an empirical technology. By the middle of the nineteenth century the roller milling of flour and mechanical refrigeration were clearly on the way, Liebig had opened up food chemistry and Pasteur, who began with lactic and alcoholic fermentations, stood on the threshold of microbiology holding in his hand the explanation of Appert's success.

We have seen that heat processing came to Australia virtually as soon as there was raw material to support it and that Australia was in the forefront of the development of mechanical refrigeration, but as one looks at the broad sweep of food science and technology one is conscious that the last quarter of the nineteenth century was a watershed. It was a period of change, development and advance in food technology everywhere and it is clear that far-sighted and entrepreneurial men kept themselves up to date with developments in other countries and were quick to transfer new technologies to Australia. The refrigerated transport of meat and other perishables, the roller milling of flour, the milk separator, modern sugar mills and new and improved brewing techniques were introduced. The analysis of the food supply leading to food regulations, chemical control in the sugar mills and some other industries, and microbiological development in Melbourne breweries began. Most importantly, the value of food research was demonstrated by Guthrie and Farrer.

Most of the technology was derived. Canning technology and the men who established it were English. There was considerable Australian innovation in refrigeration but in the event the first shipment of frozen meat to England was accomplished with Scottish equipment. The milk separator was Swedish, pasteurization French and roller milling Hungarian. The most successful lager brewing technology and the Babcock test for fat in milk came from the United States. Spawn, who invented mechanical dehydration in Tasmania was American and the Chaffeys were Canadians who transferred Californian successes in irrigation to begin a dried fruits industry. William Arnott was a Scot and Farrer and Guthrie were Englishmen. Only E. W. Knox and Frederic Dunn stand out as Australian born.

One should not be surprised at this. From the 1850s there was a stream of able educated people to the Australian colonies. The mere fact that they came suggests enterprise above the average. Australians on the other hand, were at a disadvantage. Travel, and therefore exposure to new ideas and developments, was difficult and time consuming and educational opportunities were new and few. It was not really until the new century that chemists, who were the core of food science and technology for half a century, began to become involved with food production and processing. It is fair to say that the influence of the Australian born and educated on what became food science and technology only became evident from the 1920s.

In the first forty years of the twentieth century the rate of change was much slower everywhere. Certainly, there were innovations overseas, such as the successful introduction of frozen foods to the retail market, but the next major leap in food technology was not made until after the Second World Wan In Australia, apart from some enterprising men such as Gordon Edgell and Fred Walker and the establishment of some supporting services such as W. A. Flick's pest control business, which dates from 1918, there was a perceptible slow down in developments. It was several decades, for example, before refrigeration and pasteurization were applied to the city milk supplies.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - CSIRO

People in Bright Sparcs - Arnott, William; Chaffey, George; Chaffey, W. B; Dunn, Frederic; Edgell, R. G.; Farrer, William; Flick, W. A.; Guthrie, F. B.; Knox, E. W.; Spawn, A. F.; Walker, Fred

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 141 - 142, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher