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Flagstaff Observatory

The Flagstaff Observatory was a government-funded magnetic and meteorological observatory established on Flagstaff Hill, West Melbourne, in 1858 at the urging of the young German scientist Georg Neumayer, who had travelled to Melbourne to undertake geophysical research and who became the observatory's director. Neumayer had brought from Germany an excellent set of instruments, courtesy of the King of Bavaria. With these he made hourly measurements of the earth's magnetic field, seeking patterns in its variability that he hoped to link with changes in other geophysical quantities - especially meteorological ones, which he therefore recorded equally regularly. The government also gave Neumayer authority to requisition logs of ships entering the harbour. He analysed these for information about prevailing patterns of winds and currents on the principal Australian sailing routes, and published valuable recommendations on the best routes to follow. In addition, the Flagstaff Observatory was the base station for Neumayer's magnetic survey of Victoria. In March 1859 he was appointed government meteorologist and the observatory became the hub of the colony's growing network of meteorological recording stations. In September 1862 the entire operation was transferred to the site in the Kings Domain selected for the new Melbourne Observatory, of which it became a part.

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