Session 11 Abstracts

  • 1:30–2:00 Angelique Hutchison – Collecting climate change at the Powerhouse Museum
  • 2:00–2:30 Ian Wills – The Amalgamated Printing Trades Union Review : Mirror to an era
  • 2:30–3:00 Ellen McLinden – Conflict and Controversy in the University of Halle: Social Control and the Early Sciences in Germany, c. 1694–1730
  • 3:00–3:30 William Palmer – Five early Scottish chemists: stories of adventurers and entrepreneurs

Angelique Hutchison 

Powerhouse Museum

Collecting climate change at the Powerhouse Museum

From its beginnings in the Garden Palace in Sydney’s Domain in 1879, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum) has celebrated the achievements of industry. Early collecting and exhibiting activities focussed on educating the public about the natural world and how to harness it for economic benefit. In the Museum’s current home in the shell of a former power station, collecting and exhibiting now spans the broadest areas of applied arts, applied sciences and social history. Collecting policies have evolved from celebrating the impact of industrialisation to a critical engagement with the effects of modernity.

This presentation will illustrate how the Museum’s collecting has documented the many dimensions of the climate crisis, from technological advancements of the first industrial revolution to contemporary human responses. Objects acquired into the collection capture the values of the people and cultures from which they were created, and the curatorial values of the time. In contemporary settings this material culture can be interrogated to reveal many complex connections relating to climate change.

Review of a selection of objects from the history of the Museum’s collecting will highlight the many different ways that science, technology, culture and nature interconnect along the histories of climate change. The Museum’s collection exists as a material record of human activity in relation to climate, and as a resource for deeper understandings.

Angelique Hutchison is a curator at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. Her role is to research contemporary and historical areas of science, technology and industry, to build the Museum’s collection in these fields, and share this collection and research with the public. Angelique’s love of science formed during her engineering studies where her research ranged from optimising the operation of industrial coke furnaces to creating delicate electronic muscles in the lab. As a science communicator and educator with Questacon and the Powerhouse she has shared this love of science and technology with remote and regional communities and urban audiences. As a curator at Museum Victoria and now at the Powerhouse she has developed many exhibition and online projects about design, technology and innovation. Her expertise is in contemporary engineering, industrial design, innovation, sustainability, technology and culture. Angelique has qualifications in engineering (materials), science communication and environmental studies.

Ian Wills 

University of Sydney, School of History and Philosophy of Science

The Amalgamated Printing Trades Union Review: Mirror to an era

The first half of the twentieth century saw cataclysmic changes in the world including two World Wars, a Cold War, revolutions, epidemics, the end of empires, economic depression, and technological and social change. While it is an era that has received an immense amount of attention there are Australian perspectives that remain little explored and which, while they may not be significant on a global scale, were significant to the individuals involved, illuminating the lives, concerns and views of a significant minority of Australians. A resource that provides this kind of insight is a small – and small circulation – union newspaper, the Amalgamated Printing Trades Union Review. Published monthly from 1922 to 1966, the Review aimed to provide a different view from that of the mass circulation newspapers, that were both read by, and employed, many of the union’s members. Amid the kind of articles to be expected from a union newspaper like union picnic days, wage rates and strikes, the Review carried general interest items of concern to the union’s membership of ‘militant craftsmen’ including the social science of the printing industry, unemployment, Fascism, impending war, the Soviet Union and communism, technological change in the industry and the place of women. By their absence, it also sheds light on issues that were apparently not of interest to members.

Ian Wills turned to the history and philosophy of science after a career in engineering. His PhD dissertation focused on the history and philosophy of technology using Thomas Edison’s laboratory notebooks to understand the processes by which novel artefacts are created. He has recently published on this as Thomas Edison: Success and Innovation through Failure (Springer). His current research focuses on the history of technology in the early twentieth century in an Australian context. This research includes the development of manufacturing industries in Australia and Australia’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. 

Ellen McLinden 

University of Melbourne

Conflict and Controversy in the University of Halle: Social Control and the Early Sciences in Germany, c. 1694–1730

The University of Halle is historically known as a pioneer in German educational reform, home to key actors in the developing sciences in Germany, and consequently home to the numerous controversies that surrounded them. The existence of a hotbed of controversy in what had effectively been the amphitheatre of the Thirty Years War (1618 –1648) is perhaps cause for surprise, however what is arguably more surprising is the unity frequently found between warring scholars. Indeed, amidst the disruptive and oftentimes catastrophic changes taking place across Europe, the scientific disciplines seemingly emerge as an uncommonly controlled arena of advance, nurtured by dedicated and like-minded individuals who managed to form a cohesive community amidst the tumult. Within the town of Halle this is seen amidst political, confessional, philosophical and theological variety that, despite being the source of significant discord, was more particularly intriguing in the unity that can often be found within the apparent disunity. It seems any discussion of conflict in Halle inevitably circles about a handful of key actors and events – Christian Freiherr von Wolff and his expulsion from the state perhaps the most memorable. The negotiation of conflict by scholars in and about Halle across the half century after its founding in 1694, however, offers insights into the extent to which these scholars were masters of their circumstances, or whether they were responding to changes rather than to actively pursuing and enacting them.

Ellen McLinden is PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, working in personal identity in Halle and Leipzig around 1700.

William Palmer 

Adjunct Research Associate at Curtin University

Five early Scottish chemists: stories of adventurers and entrepreneurs

One of the means of communicating an interest in science to a wider public is through telling stories from the history of science of some of its more colourful characters. The following chemists have been chosen from a multitude of possible candidates as Scotland produced many great chemists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Archibald Cochrane, 9th Earl of Dundonald (1749–1831): Inventor and entrepreneur. Charles Macintosh (1766–1843): Inventor and entrepreneur. John Maclean (1771–1814): Doctor, academic who settled in the United States. David Boswell Reid (1805–1863) Doctor, academic, ventilation expert who moved to the United States. James Young (1811–1883) Inventor and entrepreneur. The lives, successes and failures of these five men illustrate the variety of careers that chemists undertake and provide stories of human resilience.

Bill Palmer was born in London in 1937. He obtained his BSc degree (1959) and Teacher’s Certificate from the University of Exeter (1960) and he has two MSc degrees; his PhD (2003) was obtained from the Curtin University, Australia. Bill has worked in Britain, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa, Tanzania and Australia. He was a senior lecturer in Science Education at Charles Darwin University, Australia from 1989 until 2007 when he retired after nearly fifty years in science education. His research in chemical education and the history of science continues as an Adjunct Research Associate at Curtin University.