Clement Lindley Wragge

Portrait of Clement Lindley Wragge.

Clement Lindley Wragge (18 September 1852 – 10 December 1922) was a meteorologist born in Stourbridge, Worcestershire, England. After training in law, Wragge became renowned in the field of meteorology, winning the Scottish Meteorological Society's Gold Medal and starting the trend of using people's names for cyclones. He traveled widely, and in his later years was a reliable authority on Australia, India and the Pacific Islands.


Early years

Wragge lost both of his parents at a young age: his mother at five months and his father at five years. He was raised for a number of years by his grandmother, Emma Wragge at Oakamoor, Staffordshire and educated at Uttoxeter Grammar School.[1] Upon the death of his grandmother in 1865 he moved to London to live with relatives. There he followed in the footsteps of his father, studying law at Lincoln's Inn. He also studied navigation, and attended St Bartholomew's Hospital alongside medical students to watch operations. His second cousin was Clement Mansfield Ingleby a partner in the family law firm Ingleby, Wragge, and Ingleby (which later became known as Wragge&Co of Birminham), and who became famous for his Shakespearean literary writings after he left the family legal partnership to pursue his scholarship.

In 1874 Wragge worked his way to Sydney, Australia on a windjammer. He left the ship for a number of months to explore outback New South Wales and Queensland. In 1875 he worked his way from Sydney to San Francisco and Salt Lake City. There he held long discussions with Brigham Young. Claiming that polygamy appealed to him, he considered becoming a Mormon before returning to England. There he wrote a number of articles about Mormons and their religion.

Wragge returned to Australia in 1876, obtaining a position with the Surveyor-General's Department in South Australia. Wragge worked there for three years, participating in surveys of the Flinders Ranges and Murray scrubland. He married on 13 September 1877 Leonora Edith Florence d'Eresby and returned to Oakamoor, England in 1878 with his wife.


Wragge's first meteorological job was working at a weather station in North Staffordshire in 1881, living at Parkhouse Farm, Farley, Staffordshire. After the secretary of the Scottish Meteorological Society selected him to set up an observatory on the top of Ben Nevis Wragge climbed the peak daily to take readings, while his wife took comparable readings from sea level. For an unbroken series of observations from 1 June to 14 October 1881 he was awarded the Society's Gold Medal. After a second series of observations were undertaken in 1882 a Summit Observatory was opened in 1883. Wragge applied for the job of Superintendent, but was unsuccessful, possibly due to unpopularity.

Wragge's wife Leonora gave birth to a daughter, Leonora Ingleby in 1878; Emma. J, in 1879 and Clement Lionel Egerton in 1880 . His fourth child Rupert Lindley was born in August 1882 in Scotland. Wragge left for Australia soon after. His third child, Clement who was born in Farley, Staffordshire in 1880, would later enlist with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment of the First Australian Imperial Force and die from wounds at Gallipoli on 16 May 1915.[2]

Wragge inherited a considerable fortune upon the death of a wealthy aunt in 1883, and the following year he moved with his wife to settle on the outskirts of Adelaide, South Australia. He established the Torrens Observatory at Walkerville, and another at Mount Lofty. In 1886 Wragge was the founding member of the Royal Meteorological Society of Australia.

In 1886 Wragge was commissioned by the Queensland Government to write a report on the development of a meteorological organisation in Queensland that could help stem the shipping losses from cyclones. The Government was impressed with his work and on 1 January 1887 he was appointed Government Meteorologist for Queensland. Within three weeks of his arrival in Brisbane, 18.305 inches of rain fell, earning him the nickname "Inclement" Wragge. Wragge built a home, Capemba, at Taringa.

He quickly caused disquiet amongst meteorologists and astronomers from the other colonies (of Australia) when he started producing charts and predictions not only for Queensland, but for other areas of the continent. He further inflamed them by inscribing his reports Meteorology of Australasia, Chief Weather Bureau, Brisbane and by claiming that while he and his staff were engaged entirely in meteorological research, weather men in other colonies were government astronomers whose time was also filled with postal and telegraph duties.

In the 1880s and 1890s Wragge set up an extensive network of weather stations around Queensland, and developed a series of storm signals to be used upon telegraphed instructions from Brisbane to Cape Moreton, Double Island Point, Sandy Cape, Bustard Head, Cape Capricorn, Flat Top Island, Cape Bowling Green, Cape Cleveland, Cooktown, Thursday Island and Karumba. He also set up an international service with New Caledonia, by which he received data on the newly laid cable from Noumea. Between 1888 and 1893, Wragge trained Inigo Owen Jones who became a renowned long-range weather forecaster.

In 1895, Wragge set up a weather station near the summit of Mount Wellington, Tasmania, and 1897 established another on Mount Kosciuszko. He also attended international conferences in Munich (1891) and Paris (1898 and 1900).

Wragge was also responsible for the convention of naming cyclones. His original idea was to name them after the letters of the Greek alphabet but he later used the names of figures from Polynesian mythology and politicians. Politicians to have cyclones named after them by Wragge included James Drake, Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. Other colourful names he used included Xerxes, Hannibal, Blasatus and Teman. After Wragge's retirement, the practice of naming cyclones would cease for sixty years.[3]

In 1898 Wragge began publishing Wragge's Australian Weather Guide and Almanac, which contained not just meteorological information, but contributions on geology, bush craft, agriculture, mining, water supplies and postal information. In an effort to break the drought of 1902 he purchased a number of Stiger Votex Cannons, which were supposedly able to bring rain from the clouds. Test firings at Charleville on 26 September were unsuccessful. Wragge was not there to see the actual experiment, having left town after an argument with the local council. Today, two of the cannons are on display in Charleville.[4]

Wragge resigned from the Queensland Government in 1903 when his funding was decreased following the Federation of Australia.

Later years

Wragge in his later years in the gardens at Birkenhead.

Wragge travelled for a number of years after finishing with the Queensland Government. In 1904 he visited the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Tahiti to examine local fauna, and wrote a report on caterpillars and paper wasps for the government in Rarotonga.[5]

He applied unsuccessfully for the job of (Australian) Commonwealth Meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology in 1908 before returning to New Zealand. He lived for a time in Dunedin before settling at 8 Awanui Street (previously named Arawa St and prior to that Bath St), Birkenhead, Auckland with his "wife" Louisa Emmeline Horne, an Anglo-Indian theosophist. There he founded the Wragge Institute and Museum which was later destroyed by fire, and also the well known visitor attraction - Waiata tropical gardens.

During his tour to India, Prof. Wragge met Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who had claimed to be the Promised Messiah foretold in the Bible and Islamic scriptures. Some of his followers believe that Wragge had converted to Islam and stayed a Muslim until his death. Proof of his conversion is cited by Ahmadiyya Muslim (followers of Ghulam Ahmad) scholars in the form of letters written to one Mufti Muhammad Sadiq by Prof. Wragge after his meeting with Ghulam Ahmad in Lahore.[6] However more personal family records confirm that Wragge remained a theosophist up until his passing in 1922.[7]

Clement Wragge died on 10 December 1922 from a stroke. His son Kismet K Wragge stayed on as "First Officer" of the Wragge Institute.



External links

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