HARRISON, James (1816-1893)


HARRISON, James (1816-1893)
journalist, and pioneer of meat preserving
was born near Glasgow, Scotland, in 1816. He came to Australia in 1837 in charge of materials sent out by Tegg, a Cheapside bookseller, to his son at Sydney. This was used to produce the Literary News to which Harrison became a contributor. He went to Melbourne and worked for Fawkner (q.v.) on the Port Phillip Patriot, and started the Geelong Advertiser in 1840. He managed and edited this paper until the early sixties when he sold it. He had already developed an interest in refrigeration and in 1850 acquired land on the Barwon and erected an ice factory. In 1851 Glasgow and Company, brewers of Bendigo, installed a refrigerator of the Harrison type, which was the world's pioneer of such machines. In March 1856 Harrison secured a patent in England for the "production of cold by evaporation of volatile liquids in vacuo" and in September 1857 patented an apparatus for the same purpose. He was in England in this year, in touch with distinguished scientists like Faraday and Tyndall, and arranging for the manufacture of refrigerating machines. Returning to Victoria he was elected to the legislative assembly for Geelong in 1859 and sat in two parliaments. He started another paper, the Geelong Register, but sold it a year or two later, and subsequently was on the staff of the Australasian and editor of the Age at Melbourne. In 1873 he exhibited his refrigerating machine at Melbourne, and proved that mutton, beef, poultry and fish, could be preserved for long periods. In July of that year he sent a large shipment of frozen meat to England, but technical defects in the freezing chamber led to the meat going bad, and Harrison, who must have put much money into his inventions, was practically ruined. He went to England and lived there for about 19 years, spending his time in scientific study and journalism; he never entirely severed his connexion with the Age. He returned to Geelong early in 1893 bringing his family with him and hoping that one of his sons, who was suffering from consumption, might benefit from the change of climate. The young man, however, died and was followed by his father shortly afterwards on 3 September 1893. Harrison was married three times and left a widow and children.
Like other inventors who have done good work Harrison died a poor man. A stone was placed over his grave in the Geelong cemetery with the quotation "one soweth—another reapeth" engraved on it. He was an able journalist and his inventions had great value. The authors of A History of the Frozen Meat Trade are satisfied that except for one invention, which apparently was never practically tried out, Harrison was years ahead of all his rivals.
J. T. Critchell and J. Raymond, A History of the Frozen Meat Trade; The Age and The Argus, Melbourne, 4 September 1893; The Geelong Advertiser, 4 September 1893.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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