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Biographical entry Dawes, William (1762 - 1836)

Astronomer and Surveyor


William Dawes, an officer of the marines, came to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and established an observatory at Sydney on behalf of the British Board of Longitude.


Dawes arrived in Australia with the First Fleet as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines, having served in the American War of Independence, and subsequently pursued studies in engineering and surveying. Equipped with meteorological and astronomical books and instruments provided by the Royal Astronomer, he immediately began construction of an observatory at what is now known as Dawes Point, near the southern pylon of the Harbour Bridge. Dawes' meteorological journal provides a detailed chronology of the early weather of the colony from September 1788 until his departure for England in December 1791. A Hundred Years of Science and Service, Bureau of Meteorology, 2001.

Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • William Dawes - Records, 1788 - 1836; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

Published resources

Book Sections

  • Howse, Derek, 'William Dawes, 1762-1836', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. Details
  • Mander-Jones, Phyllis, 'Dawes, William (1762-1836), officer of marines, scientist and adminstrator', in Douglas Pike (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1966, pp. 297-298. Also available at Details

Journal Articles

  • Laurie, P. S., 'William Dawes, and Australia's First Observatory', Quaterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 29, 1988, pp. 469-482. Details
  • Marriott, R. A., 'W. Dawes and W. R. Dawes', Journal of the British Astronomical Association, vol. 97, 1986, p. 10. Details
  • Orchiston, W., 'William Dawes: Australia's First Meteorologist', Quaterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 30, 1989, pp. 359-360. Details
  • Russell, H.C., 'Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales, 1778-1860', Australasian Association for Advancement of Science, vol. 1, 1888, pp. 45-94. Details

Online Resources

See also

Digital resources

William Dawes


McCarthy, G.J.