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Biographical entry Russell, Henry Chamberlain (1836 - 1907)

17 March 1836
West Maitland, New South Wales, Australia
22 February 1907
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Henry Russell was Assistant Astronomer at the Sydney Observatory 1859-1870, and Government Astronomer of New South Wales 1870-1905.


Russell was Australia's first native born Government Meteorologist, the first graduate of Sydney University to be elected a Fellow, Royal Society, and the first President of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. After his permanent appointment as Government Astronomer and Meteorologist in 1870 he initiated a rapid expansion of the observing networks throughout New South Wales. In July 1877 he issued the first synoptic chart published in an Australian newspaper, and in 1879 he convened the first of the intercolonial meteorological conferences aimed at achieving uniformity in data collection. He wrote extensively on scientific matters and was the first to describe the behaviour of the migratory southern hemisphere anticyclones. He retired in 1905. A Hundred Years of Science and Service, Bureau of Meteorology, 2001.


Career position - Founding President, Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

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

  • Henry Chamberlain Russell - Records, 1870 - 1905, Uncatalogued MSS set 223; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details
  • Henry Chamberlain Russell - Records, 1856 - 1912, ML MSS 6755; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Henry Chamberlain Russell - Records, 1880 - 1895, MS 6539; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Gibbs, W. J., The Origins of Australian Meteorology, Metarch Papers No. 12 (Bureau of Meteorology, 1998). Details
  • Russell, H. C., The Sydney Observatory: history and progress (Sydney: Thomas Richards, Govt. Printer, 1882). Details
  • Wood, H. W., Sydney Observatory, 1858 to 1958 (Sydney: 1958). Details

Book Sections

  • O'Gorman, Emily, '"Soothsaying" or "science"?: H. C. Russell, meteorology, and environmental knowledge of rivers in colonial Australia' in Climate, science, and colonization: histories from Australia and New Zealand, Beattie, James, O'Gorman, Emily and Henry, Matt, eds (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 177-93. Details
  • Orchiston, Wayne, 'Tebbutt vs Russell: Passion, Power and Politics in Nineteenth Century Australian Astronomy' in History of Oriental Astronomy, S.M.R. Ansari, ed. (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2002), pp. 169-201. Details
  • Walsh, G. P., 'Russell, Henry Chamberlain(e) (1836-1907), astronomer and meteorologist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Bede Nairn, ed., vol. 6 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1976), pp. 74-75. Details

Journal Articles

  • Bhathal, R., 'Henry Chamberlain Russell: 19th Century Astronomer, Meteorologist and Organizer of Australian Science', Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 124 (1991), 1-21. Details
  • Miller, Julia, 'What's Happening to the Weather? Australian Climate, H. C. Russell, and the Theory of a Nineteen-Year Cycle', Historical Records of Australian Science, 25 (2014), 18-27. Details
  • Orchiston, Wayne, 'Politics and Personalities in Australian Astronomy: the Russell-Tebbutt Feud', AAO Newsletter, 95 (2000), 8-11. Details
  • Orchiston, Wayne, 'Illuminating Incidents in Antipodean Astronomy: H.C. Russell and the Origin of the Palomar-Type Mounting', Journal of the Antique Telescope Society, 19 (2000), 13-15. Details
  • Priestley, C. H. B., 'The Global Atmosphere: a memorial to H. C. Russell', Search, 2 (8) (1971). Details
  • Russell, H.C., 'Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales, 1778-1860', Australasian Association for Advancement of Science, 1 (1888), 45-94. Details
  • Russell, Henry Chamberlaine, 'On a New Modification of the Bichromate Battery', The Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science (1878), 201-202. Details
  • Tyler, Peter J., 'Seeing Stars in the City: a History of Early Astronomy in Sydney', Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 142 (3/4) (2009), 1-14. Details
  • Wood, H., 'History of Australian Astronomy: Sydney Observatory 1858-1983', Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 5 (2) (1983), 273. Details


Resource Sections

See also

Digital resources

Henry Chamberlain Russell


McCarthy, G.J.