The Idea of Weather: 1660-1860

Photo: Dan Shirley.

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


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 profile.