The Idea of Weather: 1660-1860

Julian Holland, Associate of the Centre for Historical Research, National Museum of Australia Fenner School Seminar Series Thursday 27 August 2009, 1-2pm, in Fenner School Forrestry Lecture Theatre, Forestry Building 48. Australian National University Abstract Weather reports are the almost universal accompaniment to news bulletins. Their combination of maps, numerical data and forecasts is so familiar as to seem an unarguable commonplace. Yet the ideas, instruments and practices which underpin the modern scientific understanding of weather had a long development. A subject as large-scale, amorphous and changeable as the weather was a challenge to the technical resources, intellectual methods and cultural assumptions of past centuries. Weather forecasting as a modern scientific endeavour only had its modest and controversial beginnings in the 1860s. This talk will look at a diverse range of ideas and circumstances which shaped the understanding of weather in the two centuries before weather forecasting began. This illustrated talk was first presented in June 2008 as the scene-setting paper for a seminar on the history of Australian meteorology held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Sydney Observatory. Further information at Fenner School Seminar Series and Julian Holland’s NMA...

Bushfire essay short-listed for Alfred Deakin Award

Tom Griffiths’ essay on the Victorian bushfires, ‘We have still not lived long enough’, has been short-listed for the Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate, and described as ‘the essay all Australians should read’. Griffiths’ research on Victorian fire history has been supported this year by the Thomas Foundation and a special grant from the ANU Vice-Chancellor, which has enabled the development of a collaborative project involving the ANU, the National Museum of Australia and fire-affected communities. The Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate is offered for a published essay by an Australian author that contributes to the national debate by the quality of its writing. The essay can be published in a print or electronic journal, newspaper or book form. Judge’s citation ‘We Have Still Not Lived Long Enough’ by Tom Griffiths (published by ‘Inside Story’, February 2009) Written in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 Victorian fires (first published 16 February), this lucid, elegant essay responds intelligently and with compassion to the tragedy. In economical and engaging prose, Griffiths brings fine scholarship to bear on our human relationship to a very particular physical landscape, while also deftly locating the Victorian fires in their historical, environmental, climatic and geographic context. Ever dispassionate, Griffiths is able to draw clear policy lessons without acrimony or finger pointing. This is the essay all Australians should read if they wish to understand a particular catastrophe, learn about the precedents, and grasp both the particular circumstances of one Australian region and the general environmental responsibilities of all citizens. For full details, see http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/programs/literary/pla/adprize/shortlist_winner_2009.html Read the essay at...