Australia's weather was a mystery to its early colonists, and instruments similar to this barometer were used to measure atmospheric pressure and make weather forecasts for Sydney and its surrounds.
In exploring Australia, the supply, transport, maintenance, and repair of scientific instruments posed many difficulties. No instrument was more at hazard than the mercurial barometer. A meter long glass tube filled with mercury, even when encased in the metal outer tube, was very vulnerable on long inland journeys. The introduction of the aneroid barometer was a great success as Casella describes in 1871 "This ingenious and elegant instrument is now regarded as almost indispensable to all who take interest in the weather, whilst, to travellers in particular, it presents advantages which hitherto they could not obtain. Before the introduction of the aneroid, limited indeed were the means of those, who, moving from place to place, desired in their progress to take reliable notice of meteorological phenomena, whilst the measurements of heights by any convenient or simple and portable arrangement was quite out of the question. Not only are all these difficulties entirely overcome by this instrument, but the older fragile form of a barometer used at sea is almost entirely superseded". Although the aneroid barometer was not as precise as a mercurial barometer, it allowed early colonists to take meteorological measurements while exploring the Australian countryside.
The ability to forecast the weather was an important feature in the pioneering of Australia. This barometer is also significant for its association with nineteenth century meteorological instruments and instrument makers.
Julian Holland, Australian Exploration and the Introduction of the Aneroid Barometer, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, No 61 (June 1999), pp 24-26.
L. Casella, An illustrated and descriptive catalogue of surveying, philosophical, mathematical, optical, photographic, and standard meteorological instruments, D Lane, London, 1871
Written by Erika Dicker, Assistant Curator, November 2007.