Australia's Big Science Picnic, 1914

'Australia's Big Science Picnic, 1914: Some New Evidence'

Professor Lynette Russell, FRHistS, FASSA, of Monash University, will deliver the 2015 Annual Lecture of the History Council of Victoria. This event is arranged with support from the Old Treasury Building, Melbourne.

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DATE: Thursday 22 October 2015

TIME: 6 pm (light refreshments) for 6.30 pm (lecture)

VENUE: Old Treasury Building, 20 Spring Street, East Melbourne (click here for information on public transport and parking)

TICKETS: $15 per head - click here to book
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In 1914 the Australian Federal Government sponsored the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) to travel to Australia for their annual conference. Over 150 scientists were fully funded by the Australian Commonwealth government and they travelled on three ships especially commanded for this purpose. Across five major cities public talks, demonstrations and excursions familiarised the visiting scientists with Australian natural and hard sciences, geology, botany as well as anthropology. In terms of anthropology the congress presented a unique opportunity to showcase Aboriginal culture. This lecture draws on recently uncovered archival materials from Oxford’s Bodleian Library and considers the personalities, logistics, events and outcomes of this massive undertaking. In terms of outcomes just two of the Association’s recommendations were to establish a Commonwealth Scientific Institute (later CSIRO) and to develop a national telescope at Mt Stromlo. Although these were delayed by the outbreak of the Great War, it is clear that this Big Science Picnic was no mere singular event, but rather the BAAS in Australia left a legacy we are still beneficiaries of today.

Ticket for Melbourne BAAS meeting, 1914 Group at 1914 BAAS meeting, University of Melbourne

Event ticket for 1914 BAAS meeting

An unnamed group at the University of Melbourne for the 1914 BAAS meeting


Professor Lynette Russell is an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow (2011-2016) at Monash University and was visiting fellow at All Souls College Oxford 2014-2015. She completed a PhD in history from the University of Melbourne and has taught and researched in the area of historical and Indigenous studies for nearly twenty years. She is author or editor of ten books. Her current work is in the cutting edge area of anthropological history. She is an elected fellow of Cambridge University’s Clare Hall, AIATSIS and the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Royal Historical Society.

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