Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jones, Inigo Owen (1872–1954)

by John Steele

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Inigo Owen Jones (1872-1954), by unknown photographer

Inigo Owen Jones (1872-1954), by unknown photographer

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H20475

Inigo Owen Jones (1872-1954), meteorologist, was born on 1 December 1872 at Croydon, Surrey, England, son of Owen Jones, civil engineer, and his wife Emilie Susanne, née Bernoulli, of a famous scientific family. Emilie's mother Dorothy Inigo-Jones was descended from the architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652). A family likeness between the two Inigos has been claimed.

In 1874 his parents migrated to Queensland where his father designed roads and railways. When 11 Inigo obtained a scholarship to the Brisbane Grammar School. Interested in astronomy and meteorology, he had an observatory at his parents' Kangaroo Point home and was a student member of the Royal Society of Queensland. In 1888 the colonial meteorologist Clement Wragge persuaded Jones to serve a cadetship in his office rather than attend the University of Sydney. When Wragge became interested in Edouard Bruckner's investigation of the changing levels of the Caspian Sea, comparing Bruckner's 35-year rainfall cycle with the 11-year sunspot cycle, Jones began to develop a special interest in long-range forecasting on the basis of sunspots.

In 1892 his parents bought a farm about sixty miles (97 km) north of Brisbane and named it Crohamhurst after a property near Inigo's birthplace. Inigo joined them there and on 2 February 1893 recorded an Australian record for one day's rainfall of 37.714 inches (958 mm). For the next thirty years he lived in relative obscurity, helping his father with pioneering work on the farm and continuing meteorological research as a hobby stimulated by first-hand experience of the farmer's dependence on weather forecasts.

In 1923 Jones successfully predicted the end of a dry spell and the resulting press publicity created demands for his forecasts. Urged on by scientific and other friends, he became a full-time forecaster — lecturing, writing and seeking sponsorship in 1927-34 from his home in suburban Dutton Park. The Queensland government appointed him director of the Bureau of Seasonal Forecasting of the Council of Agriculture, and with contributions from governments and industry, the Inigo Jones Seasonal Weather Forecasting Trust was formed in October 1928. From 1929 he wrote forecasts for many Australian newspapers.

The observatory building at Crohamhurst, financed by the trust and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co., was opened on 13 August 1935 by Governor Sir Leslie Wilson, a friend and supporter; the Queensland government helped with operating expenses and declared the site of the observatory a reserve for scientific purposes. Jones henceforth divided his time between work on the farm and work in the observatory. In 1942 Sydney grazing interests provided further support through the Long Range Weather Forecasting Trust.

A fellow of the Royal Astronomical and the Royal Meteorological societies, London, and a member of the Société Astronomique de France and the American Meteorological Society, Jones had a fertile imagination, read widely and corresponded with reputable scientists in many countries. He had a scientist's commitment to demonstrable truth and an aversion to astrology, 'that master of delusion'. Although, in the light of modern knowledge, his faith in sunspot activity as a predictive tool was well founded, his evidence was largely anecdotal and he did not prove his hypothesis. The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology reported adversely on his methods in both 1939 and 1953. He dreamed nevertheless of seasonal forecasting and tried to forecast sunspot activity several years ahead. Testing the hypothesis that the magnetic fields of the planets, especially Jupiter, influenced sunspot activity, he sought connexions between planetary positions and the weather since the first century and was unfairly branded by opponents as an astrologer. His hypothesis is now disproved, but in the 1930s Jones was ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of magnetic fields in space.

A member of the Anglican Diocesan Synod, Jones was also, while living in Brisbane, president of the Queensland Astronomical Society and of the (Royal) Historical Society of Queensland and vice-president of the Town Planning Association. An accomplished artist and musician, he was a vice-president also of the Queensland Authors' and Artists' Association. On 11 January 1905 at Crohamhurst he had married Marion Emma Comrie; they had three surviving daughters. Jones died at Crohamhurst on 14 November 1954 and was buried in the nearby Peachester cemetery. His meteorological work was continued by Lennox Walker.

Select Bibliography

  • Inigo Jones Research Weather Forecasting Trust (nd, Brisb)
  • People (Sydney), 21 June 1950
  • Queenslander, 31 Jan 1885, 7 Feb 1935
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Nov 1954
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 16 Nov 1954
  • Series 9, item G25/37 (CSIRO Archives)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Steele, 'Jones, Inigo Owen (1872–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-inigo-owen-539/text11915, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 28 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Inigo Owen Jones (1872-1954), by unknown photographer

Inigo Owen Jones (1872-1954), by unknown photographer

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H20475