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

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War

VI After The Joint Project

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Colonial Origins (continued)

Fundamental contributions to the science of aeronautics were made by Lawrence Hargrave between 1884-94 although, at this stage, no practical application of the knowledge gained was envisaged, least of all for defence purposes. His experiments with model lifting surfaces excited attention by the Royal Society of New South Wales and among overseas workers and his improvements to the design of box-kites led to the spectacular demonstration in 1894 of their ability to carry significant pay loads in a moderate breeze. His design concepts won recognition among scientists and were incorporated in the earliest European powered flight experiments. An equally significant contribution by Hargrave was in the development of a rotary internal combustion engine, of a power-to-weight favourable enough to suggest its practical use for propulsion of a heavier than air flying machine. Unfortunately, Hargrave had no appreciation of the practical commercial aspects of life and took out no patents of his advanced ideas. His isolation from the mainsprings of technological thinking of the Northern Hemisphere ensured that concurrent developments there gained pre-eminence.

A military interest in aviation was stirred in 1909[4] when the Aerial League of Australia, through its founder, G. A. Taylor, who had worked with Hargrave on the development of the engine submitted to the Minister for Defence, Mr Joseph Cook, that aircraft could play a part in defending Australia and that a Government sponsored design competition would help to stimulate the interest of inventors. Technical and military advisers supported the idea and a prize of 25,000 was duly offered, provided a similar sum was subscribed by the public, or by industry. Despite lack of financial response the Government persisted in laying down competition rules requiring the inventor to demonstrate that his machine could rise from the ground carrying a pilot and observer, stay aloft for five hours and return to the ground without damaging its landing gear. Its speed had to be greater than 25 miles per hour.

Many submissions were received from within Australia and from overseas; the difficulty was that, without finance, machines could not be built for demonstration and the entrants needed the prize money to finance their effort. The competition was finally cancelled.

The first example[5] of successful aircraft design in Australia was that of John Duigan. A trained engineer, he had informed himself on aeronautical matters by reading Sir Hiram Maxim's 'Natural and Artificial Flight'. At his farm in Gippsland, he constructed gliders, and finally a machine powered by a 25 hp four cylinder air (and later water) cooled engine constructed by J. E. Tilley of Melbourne. It first flew in 1910, and was demonstrated to a member of the Defence Department.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Aerial League of Australia; Royal Society of New South Wales

People in Bright Sparcs - Duigan, John; Hargrave, Lawrence; Taylor, G. A.; Tilley, J. E.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 921 - 922, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher