Australian monsoons, coal industry slavery and early Australian agriculture were the winning topics this year for the annual National Museum of Australia Student Essay Prize for the History of Australian Science or Australian Environmental History.

The winning essay, A brief history of the monsoon, was penned by Christian O’Brien, a PhD student at the Australian National University’s School of History.

Second prize has gone to Sonya Duus, a PhD student at ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, for her essay Buried sunshine, sacrificial lands and industrial slaves: an environmental history of coal in Australia.

Cameron Muir was awarded highly commended for his essay, Wheat for a white world: social and ecological relationships on the agricultural frontier in the early 20th century. Cameron is studying for his PhD in Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, also at the ANU.

The prize is awarded for an essay based on original unpublished research undertaken whilst enrolled as a tertiary student. Winners were chosen by the Academy’s National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science.

Australian Academy of Science Secretary for Education and Public Awareness, Professor Jenny Graves, said the Academy is proud to encourage a broader understanding of the history of Australian science.

“Science education and a public awareness of Australian science is vital to a healthy and informed Australian society,” Professor Graves said.

“The Academy is proud to be a part of this initiative to award fascinating original research into the history of Australian science and the environment.

“I heartily congratulate Christian O’Brien, Sonya Duus, and Cameron Muir.”

Director of the National Museum of Australia, Andrew Sayers, added: “We are living in a time when interest in history in Australia is going through a resurgence. “It is great that we can be a part in encouraging a new generation of historians in their exploration of the past.”

Source: Australian Academy of Science