The gold rushes sparked great technological advancement. Early gold mining techniques quickly needed replacing as alluvial deposits disappeared and miners had to dig deeper to find gold. The gold rush also attracted scientists, geologists and engineers from around the world who made a lasting impact on the country.
In other features this month, discover the scientific basis of gold, the dubious science of medicine on the gold fields, and uncover some of Australia’s biggest nuggets.
O’Connor and the waters of gold
Engineer CY O'Connor committed suicide after incessant criticism about the construction of a 600km pipeline to carry water to the Kalgoorlie gold fields.
Medical moments on the diggings
Largely due to the expense of ‘real’ doctors, the vast majority of diggers relied heavily on ‘guaranteed’ remedies concocted by such noble fellows as Professor Holloway.
Geology of gold
Dr Bill Birch dispels the myth that "gold is where you find it".
Australian soldiers were called diggers, as many men who fought for Australia in WWI were diggers from the goldfields.
"Gold is not found in quartz alone; its richest lodes are in the eyes and ears of the public."
It is estimated that at least 20% of all the gold mined since 1500 has been wrung from the earth during only fifty years' worth of gold rushes in the nineteenth century.
A 150th anniversary is a sesquicentenary.
In the first few years of Victoria's life as an independent colony, the Victorian Government sold £4,500,000 worth of Aboriginal land.
The Incas called gold the "sweat of the sun", while the Aztecs and the Mayans called it "the excrement of the sun".
A census of the Kimberly gold fields showed unqualified practitioners such as faith healers, tonic sellers and clairvoyants out-numbered legally qualified doctors three-to-one.
Australia now mines about 300 tonnes of gold annually – worth about $4.5million – making it the third-largest producer in the world, after South Africa and the United States. Gold is Australia’s second largest export after coal.
In 1965 archaeologists discovered the "Ramlah Hoard" – a collection of gold dinars and ingots dating from 761 to 976 – at Ramlah, near Jerusalem.
Gold fingerprinting technology, developed in Australia to help police trace the origin of stolen gold, is now being used to determine the origin of archaeological artefacts.