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

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



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Eloquence amounts to mentioning the gist of the matter and then stopping. (continued)

Although the Government mainly controlled enterprises in the initial 5-10 year period, industrial development changed and progressed after about 1810 as the State gradually eased out of the role of major producer of goods and services and relied more heavily on local producers. Improvements in ocean transport also allowed greater reliance on overseas suppliers, although it still upwards of nine months for an order to be sent and received back. Up to this time government involvement included brickmaking, coarse woven cloth and manufacture of lime, nails and implements. Between 1811 and 1815 there was a general depression of commercial activity overseas and imported goods tended to dry up in the colony. Local people with capital saw a chance of gain by investing more in local manufacturing. Although transport from Britain was becoming more reliable, its cost was very high and there were still delays and uncertainties, which again prompted more investment in local manufacture.

The Colony was attempting to attract capital goods from overseas with associated inducements of land grants. A John Dickson arrived in 1813 bringing with him the Colony's first steam engine as part of 10,000 worth of goods and machinery. Unfortunately, however, he did not bring the necessary skills to assemble and operate it and a mechanic had to be brought out from UK for this purpose. It began operating in 1815 and further engines were introduced in 1825, 1826 and 1829. By 1831 there were six engines totalling 112 HP, including one at the Australian Agricultural Company's Newcastle coal mine, and by 1840 there were 26 in flour mills and 10 in other industries with, in total, 400 HP. Locally built timber vessels had imported steam engines fitted until about 1837 and these available engines stimulated local industry to expand to provide replacement parts and to undertake salvage and reconditioning work, all of which greatly increased the stock of technically and mechanically skilled persons. By 1836 local foundries and engineering works were beginning to build engines from scratch.

The first 50 years was a period of experimentation, many who had had no formal training before coming to Australia were beginning to learn by trial and error and invariably evolved new ways of doing things. The indigenous materials were different in many respects from those in England and much time and experiment were spent in building up information on the properties of materials and their handling and finishing qualities. This was particularly so for construction materials; the properties of clays for bricks, the production of cements, the use of seal oils for external paints and the properties of various barks for tanning. In 1819, Thomas Kent invented a process for extracting tanning material from wattle bark. In particular the brewing of beer required innovative changes from that in Britain because of the higher average temperature in Sydney town which caused problems with the yeasts that were not experienced elsewhere.

Salt had been required from the first settlement and various sites were set aside for its production including one in Newcastle for producing salt by boiling salt water using local coal for fuel. This operated from 1804-1808. In the same area, sea shells were being burnt to produce lime, mainly for building.

The first coal gas was manufactured in 1820 and Macquarie Place in Sydney was lit by oil lamps in 1826 when the first gas light in a shop was also installed.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Agricultural Company

People in Bright Sparcs - Dickson, John; Kent, Thomas

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 851 - 852, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher