A free public lecture in Townsville next Wednesday (27 June) will examine the role of science in the expansion of British settlement in North Queensland, explaining how later generations built on the scientific heritage of James Cook’s first Pacific voyage.
James Cook University historian Russell McGregor will present After Cook - Science on the Frontiers of North Queensland.
“Cook’s primary mission on that initial voyage was a scientific one,” Associate Professor McGregor said.
“With astronomer Charles Green he was to record the transit of Venus at Tahiti in 1769. It was only after the transit that he continued on in search of the Great South Land, eventually charting Australia’s east coast and ‘in the name of the King of Great Britain’ claiming the eastern half of the continent.
“On board the Endeavour was a group of scientists led by Joseph Banks, busily recording, observing and collecting plant and animal specimens as well as cultural items from the places and peoples they encountered on the voyage.
“That established an important tradition of including scientists on British exploratory voyages and expeditions. In this lecture I’ll be focussing on how, when colonisation followed exploration, science helped the newcomers set down roots in what was to them a new and strange land.
“I will also be looking at how that tradition of scientific investigation was extended by later generations of northern Queenslanders.
“Many of the pioneering pastoralists, for example, were keen collectors of zoological, biological and paleontological specimens which they sent to museums and herbaria in southern capital s and overseas.
“I’ll also look at the role of Aboriginal people as collectors of scientific specimens in colonial North Queensland, and at the emergence of a conservation movement in the region as early as the 1880s.
Associate Professor McGregor’s lecture is part of a series linked to the transit of Venus earlier this month. The final lecture in the series, on Wednesday 4 July, will examine Queensland’s role in an attempt to observe the 1882 transit.
Associate Professor McGregor’s lecture will be held on Wednesday 27 June in the Medical Lecture Theatre at James Cook University.
Refreshments will be served from 6.00pm and the lecture will begin at 6.30pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.
Issued: June 20, 2012
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