At the launch of the book On the Edge of Discovery, Chris Schacht (the tall one in the middle) posed with a number of Australian women scientists - (from l eft) Jean Laby, Edna Sharp, Chris Blackall, Alvie Wilmot, Sophie Ducker, Edna Heggey and Beth Caldicott. Photography courtesy of UniNEWS. (54kb jpeg.)
The first half of the book includes a series of historical studies ranging from Sara Maroske's survey of Australian women workers in science in the 19th century, through to Linden Gillbank's account of Maisie Fawcett's research on the Bogong High Plains. The second half offers more contemporary assessments of gender issues relating to the nature of science, and science education.
Prior to the invention of the marine chronometer (a very accurate type of clock) in the mid-1700s, navigating the world's seas was a treacherous and, to some extent, a hit-and-miss affair. The problem lay in knowing your exact location.
It was all a matter of Time explains the various methods proposed to deal with the problem of longitude, and describes the people involved in the chase - people like Nevil Maskelyne, Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, James Cook, Matthew Flinders, and early clock-makers John Harrison, Larcum Kendall, John Arnold and Thomas Earnshaw.
Having covered the early history of chronometer development, Tooth goes on to describe the first voyages on which chronometers were used, and how they revolutionised navigation.
Throughout the book there is a common thread - chronometer No. E520, one of Thomas Earnshaw's, used by Flinders and one of the most travelled of all the chronometers. It was all a matter of Time concludes with the story of how the author accidently 'discovered' E520 in a case in the Powerhouse Museum, and set about tracing its recent history. Through his efforts, the tale of E520 was completed, almost two hundred years after it began.
- Extracted from a review by Jonathan Nally, Sky & Space, December 1993, p.63.
The major areas of research undertaken at the Parkes Observatory are covered, but so are the less well documented 'near disasters', and other aspects of observatory life such as 'The North Goobang Philosophical Society'. Particularly enjoyable is 'When I look back - A forum', described as 'a free-for-all, light-hearted, and often boisterous, discussion'. The book is well illustrated with a large number of photographs, often with fun captions. Parkes - Thirty Years of Radio Astronomy stands nicely alongside Peter Robertson's Beyond Southern Skies, adding to the human dimension of the story.
The book can be ordered from Vicki Smith, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility, PO Box 76, Epping, NSW 2121. Cost is $20, plus postage of $5 (NSW and ACT), $6 (elsewhere in Australia), or $15 (overseas). Cheques should be made payable to CSIRO Australia National Telescope Facility. Inquiries should be directed to Vicki Smith at the above address, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.