[HASN logo] No. 34, March 1995 ISSN 0811-4757

Edited and published by Tim Sherratt (Tim.Sherratt@asap.unimelb.edu.au) for ASAP.

[Publications logo]

Rock Me Hard...Rock Me Soft - A history of the Geological Society of Australia Incorporated

B.J. Cooper and D.F. Branagan (eds),The Geological Society of Australia Incorporated, Sydney, 1994, 194 pages, softcover, illustrated.

Rock Me Hard...Rock Me Soft... charts the history of the Geological Society of Australia, from its inception in 1952 to the present day. The writing of this comprehensive history was coordinated by the Society's Earth Sciences History Group, although its content has been 'largely written by the geologists who experienced it', as editors Barry Cooper and David Branagan acknowledge in their introduction.

The history describes the formation of colonial geological societies and the eventual development of a national society, and covers the working and social activities of the National Committees, Regional Divisions and Specialist Groups of the Geological Society. Members from each of these groupings have contributed their own histories, making Rock Me Hard...Rock Me Soft... a collaborative and representative account of the history of the Society.

The Society's archives, held in the Basser Library, have been used by Cooper and Branagan not only to compile comprehensive listings of office bearers, awards, committees, conventions and publications, but also to illustrate Rock Me Hard...Rock Me Soft... with a variety of cartoons, humerous anecdotes and verse extracted from the Society's newsletter, TAG. Numerous black and white photos and reproductions of documents relating to the history of the Society further add to the interest of the book.

- Victoria Young, ASAP Canberra.

Searching for the Snowy - An environmental history

George Seddon, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 1994, xxxvi + 336 pages, hardcover, illustrations (figures, tables & colour plates), maps, appendices, bibliography, index, $34.95.

The Snowy River, and the extensive tract of south-eastern Australia which it drains, have attracted scientific attention at various times during the past two centuries - especially from geologists and biologists. I was interested in the extent to which Searching for the Snowy addressed the scientific interest in the region.

As the sub-title, An environmental history, indicates, it is a regional history which includes but ranges far beyond human constructions and destruction, to include some geological and science history. Seddon's geological expertise provides firm foundations for his discussion of the Snowy region's geology and vegetation, and their exploitation for the production of pasture, timber, minerals, and electricity.

Seddon describes the development of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, not solely in relation to the mountain bedrock, but also in relation to its wider social, economic and political context. He treats similarly, though more briefly, changing patterns of other exploitative activities in the region.

Seddon describes how explorers, pastoralists, miners and the scientists who accompanied or followed them, followed aboriginal routes, without acknowledgment or respect.

Several people who carried out scientific studies feature in Searching for the Snowy. The Reverend W.B. Clarke, Alfred Howitt and James Stirling described the region's geomorphology and its mineral wealth last century. The chapter "More traveller's tales: a trip through Croajingolong with Baldwin Spencer" describes a Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria excursion through the forests of East Gippsland in 1889, and mentions Ferdinand Mueller's earlier crossing of the lower Snowy to see Victoria's only palm in the jungle along Cabbage Tree Creek. Seddon also mentions, but with few details, several of the botanists who this century have shared Mueller's interest in the pockets of jungle (now called rainforest) in East Gippsland - Charles Sutton, Norman Wakefield and David Cameron.

Searching for the Snowy is a delightful book. It provides a fascinating voyage of discovery through the social, political, economic and natural history of the Snowy region, and exudes Professor Seddon's love of geology, the bush, the English language and of course the Snowy River. HASN readers interested in the natural history, especially geology, of the region will enjoy dipping into Seddon's book, even if they choose not to read it from cover to cover.

- Linden Gillbank, History and Philosophy of Science Department, University of Melbourne.

Computing in Australia - The development of a profession

J.M. Bennett, Rosemary Broomham, P.M. Murton, T. Pearcey, R.W. Rutledge eds, Hale & Iremonger in association with the Australian Computer Society Inc, Sydney, 1994, xxii + 322pp., illustrated, $49.95 hardcover, $29.95 softcover.

This is more than just a history of the Australian Computer Society, it is an attempt to put computing in Australia within a broad historical, economic and social context. The editors have brought together material from a large number of contributors, using personal reminiscences and autobiographical notes to flesh out the more conventional narrative sections.

The first three chapters provide an overview of the history of computing in Australia, from George Julius's totalisator, through CSIRAC (one of the earliest electronic computers in the world) and SILLIAC, to the early 1960s when the society was founded. Reminiscences by David Myers and John Bennett add much to the story. We discover, for example, that SILLIAC's heat exchangers had sufficient capacity to act as a cooler for six bottles of beer.

Later chapters examine specific elements of the development of computing, such as their use in the public service, in defence, and in education. Included is Phil Grouse's previously classified tale of the 'Beast', a computer used by the Defence Signals Branch in the late 1950s. The final section of the book provides a detailed account of the society's formation and activities, as well as a series of branch histories.

- Tim Sherratt, ASAP Canberra.

The Man Who Sold the Milky Way - A Biography of Bart Bok

David H. Levy, University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, 1993, xiii + 247 pages, illustrated.

Bart Bok was Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory from 1956 to 1966, taking over from Richard Woolley (whose name is mispelled in this book). Bok's Australian experiences are covered here in three fairly brief chapters. One focuses on the establishment of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, while another goes into much detail concerning the Boks' relationship with Mount Stromlo's magpies. This is a pleasant, readable account, but somewhat lacking in depth.

- Tim Sherratt, ASAP Canberra.

Antarctic Artefacts - A selective description and annotated catalogue of artefacts in the Mawson Collection at the University of Adelaide

Richard G. Ferguson, University of Adelaide, 1995, xv + 267 pages, illustrated, $25.

Through the exemplary work of Fred Jacka and now Richard Ferguson, Douglas Mawson must be one of the country's most closely documented Australian scientists. This new publication complements nicely the guide to Mawson's papers and offers fascinating browsing. It is, for the most part, simply a list of artefacts in the Mawson collection, including clothes, scientific equipment, sledges, scrapbooks, photographs, even a box of matches and a biscuit tin. A useful introduction provides background information on Mawson and the collection, and a section on 'The artefacts in context' gives an idea of how the objects were used.

- Tim Sherratt, ASAP Canberra.

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