Alasdair McGregor

The twenty or so elegant Georgian buildings designed by Francis Greenway that stand in Sydney today are a civilising presence. Yet these represent less than a quarter of his output. The destruction has been wanton and impoverishing.

Greenway was born in November 1777, near Bristol. His father was a stonemason and builder, as had been generations of Greenways. Nothing is known of his early years, but, judging by his knowledge of literature, he probably had a respectable education. He worked in the Greenway family’s mason’s yard and spent time in London from 1797, attached in some way – maybe as an apprentice – to the architect John Nash. By 1805, Greenway was back in Bristol working with his brothers, and by 1809 he was bankrupt.

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The years 1909 to 1914 were unusually busy in Antarctica. Back in 1900 the continent had barely been walked on, but in the succeeding decade or so, expeditions of scientific and geographical enquiry, often burdened with heavy loads of imperialist endeavour, penetrated to the heart of the last unexplored continent. The attainment of the South Geographical Pole became the emblematic centrepiece of triumph and tragedy in the so-called ‘Heroic Age’ of Antarctic exploration. In January 1909 Ernest Shackleton and three others were forced to turn back just a few days’ travel from the South Pole. Two years later, in December 1911, the southern geographical extremity of the planet was first reached when Norwegian Roald Amundsen and four companions stood at the pole. Just over a month later, a defeated and exhausted British party led by Robert Falcon Scott marched away from the South Pole to their deaths and, until recent historical deconstruction, a revered place in Britain’s Imperial folklore.

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Marion Mahony (1870–1961) was that rare commodity in late nineteenth-century American society: a woman functioning as an equal in a professional world dominated by men. Born to progressive parents, and a household and wider circle of strong and socially engaged women, Marion Lucy Mahony was only the second woman to graduate from an American university (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1894) with a full degree in architecture, and the first to be licensed to practise under any state regulatory structure anywhere in the world (Illinois, 1898).

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On 18 January 1773, less than twenty-four hours after first entering Antarctic waters and concerned by the ice gathering around the Resolution, Commander James Cook surveyed the waters. A few hours later he wrote in his journal: ‘From the mast head I could see nothing to the Southward but Ice, in the Whole extent from East to WSW without the least appearance of any partition.’

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