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Astronomy in Western Australia

Utting, Muriel (1993) Astronomy in Western Australia. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis is devoted to a study of the origins and achievements of astronomers in Western Australia from 1829 to 1912. It addresses the questions about the role of astronomy in WA society, the reasons for the establishment of the Perth Observatory, and its achievements between 1896 and 1912. More widely, the thesis addresses the general question of the role of astronomy in our society and the contributions which astronomers have made to the development of Western Australia.

The first Premier of Western Australia, Sir John Forrest, persuaded his Government to build an Observatory, promising that it would house necessary services for the State, that is, timekeeping, meteorology, geodesy, tidal predictions and education services, to provide a scientific basis for society.

This service developed despite continuing opposition and interference from the Government and some sections of society. The thesis assesses the role of Lord Forrest and the Government Astronomer, W.E. Cooke, and his staff.

The thesis examines the historical context of the founding of the Observatory, the initial tasks set for it by Cooke and the extent to which these goals were achieved. Cooke's experience in establishing a modern Observatory in a fledgling society is examined in detail in order to understand the reasons for his resignation in 1912 and the nature of his achievements.

This study is intended to be both a scientific and social history of astronomy in Western Australia. It examines the scientific achievements of the Perth Observatory over its first 1 6 years in relation to its original objectives. The thesis also examines the social impact of the Observatory on WA society. The extent of its contribution is best assessed in the long-term where the benefits and costs of years of painstaking work can be more clearly understood.

This thesis is intended to provide an insight into the role of astronomy in society and the costs and benefits of major scientific institutions. By focussing on the origins and early development of astronomy in WA we can see how the interplay of political, economic and social factors influences the development of science. We can also see how long it takes for scientific projects to reach maturity and how a long-term perspective is required in order to assess their outcomes.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Jennings, Philip and Candy, Michael
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