A ‘most wonderful piece of mechanism’: Dent Marine Chronometer No 53862

Friday 17 August 1906. The Galilee, once the fastest clipper on the Pacific Ocean and now a research vessel for the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) on its second scientific voyage, lies on its side in Yokohama Harbour, the victim of a savage typhoon. On board is some of the latest scientific and navigational equipment, including four marine chronometers. By Saturday evening, the vessel was righted and all the equipment saved. One of the chronometers – Dent two-day marine chronometer No 53862 – is now in the collection of the National Museum of Australia. How did it get there? Continue reading

The ‘Magnetic Crusade’. An international scientific endeavour represented in Australia’s National Historical Collection

Introduction

Almost 100 years ago, at the height of the First World War, a small party of scientists from the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) in Washington, led by Wilfred Charles Parkinson and William Fisher Wallis, travelled across south-west Australia seeking a suitable location for a magnetic observatory. They finally settled on a site at Watheroo, about 225 kilometres north of Perth. The instrument they used in their search – theodolite-magnetometer CIW-18 – is now in Australia’s National Historical Collection (NHC), where it represents a significant part of Australia’s, and the world’s, scientific heritage. Continue reading

World Mosquito Day: microscopes and wedding dresses

World Mosquito Day commemorates the discovery that female Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans, made by British medical researcher Sir Ronald Ross on 20 August 1897. Since that day, researchers across the world have sought to understand mosquitoes and their role as vectors, developing methods to prevent and control the spread of disease. The material culture created in response to the mosquito reflects the wide ranging interests of scientific endeavour, environmental adaptations and social paradigms in Australia and across the world.

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‘Annie’ and The Bomb. An Australian contribution to monitoring nuclear weapons testing.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the commencement of a nuclear arms race that profoundly shaped the political and economic trajectory of the twentieth century. While the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States dominated the headlines, it is worth remembering Australia’s role in controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.  Continue reading

Among the plants

Last week, we installed nine objects from the Museum’s collections in an exhibition at CSIRO Discovery in Canberra. These objects – including microscopes, a vasculum, and a billy-can – tell us much about the careers of the women scientists that used them, and about women’s participation in scientific endeavour in the last 150 years.

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Post-traumatic stress and the long Shadow of Ebola

After 42 days without a new case of Ebola, Liberia is officially now ‘free’ of the disease, as of 9 May 2015, according to the World Health Organization. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-09/liberia-declared-free-of-ebola-disease/6457992 On-going vigilance is urged; there are still new cases in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea, and diseases do not respect national jurisdictions. Continue reading

Women in science – Dr Germaine Joplin

This International Women’s Day (March 8) we’re reflecting on the remarkable achievements of little-known yet talented Australian petrologist Dr Germaine Joplin (1903-1989).

50 years ago women were particularly prominent in the field of geology, yet they struggled to gain recognition and acceptance among their male counterparts. Today, the gender gap is still a concern for Australian science. Leading Australian scientists explored the reasons for this in 2011 in The Conversation. Despite outstanding talent and hard work women scientists experienced prejudice and discrimination in the workplace, if they were lucky enough to gain employment. Determination and a thick skin were prerequisite for any woman then aspiring to a profession in the sciences.

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Phar Lap was a horse

Isa Menzies is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, where she is examining how museums in Australia and New Zealand have interpreted horse remains, particularly in relation to narratives of national identity. Before becoming a student again, Isa spent almost a decade working in museums across a variety of roles, including as the curator responsible for Phar Lap’s heart at the National Museum of Australia.

In this guest blog, Isa reflects on the recent rediscovery of tissue cut long ago from the heart of Phar Lap, and the potential offered by these two containers of organ parts and preserving fluid to reimagine the great Australian race horse.

The name ‘Phar Lap’ conjures all sorts of imagery: the Melbourne Cup, perhaps, or the nobly-posed figure on display in the Melbourne Museum, or the abnormally large heart, which inspired the phrase ‘a heart as big as Phar Lap’s’. While the name evokes all those things and more, it is unlikely that when people think of Phar Lap, they will call to mind Continue reading