In 1855 Charles Todd arrived in the young colony of South Australia. He was 28 and his mind was full of the new sciences and technologies that were changing life in 19th century Europe. He had trained with the best at Greenwich in England and in Australia he was presented with a ‘blank canvas’ to implement his many ideas.Until recently, he was best, and to many, only known for his work with the Overland Telegraph. Though this was a tremendous feat of management, its two years are but a short part of this man’s 50 year contribution to our national heritage. However, lesser known is the fact he worked with similar bright people in his own colony and the others on the continent to establish the foundations of astronomy. meteorology, electrical engineering, time keeping, surveying, telegraphy and an efficient postal system.He was also influential in the establishment of many social and intellectual institutions of the Colony including two of South Australia’s universities, its Museum, the State Library, the Art Gallery and two churches. His work extended to a national level and it influenced some key issues at Federation.In many ways, Todd could stand with us as one of our contemporaries - he was deeply involved in building and running the infrastructure of a science and technology obsessed society like ours. He would also be a familiar figure to the legion of MBA’s dotted throughout our enterprises. Todd’s story is replete with examples of his capacity to think strategically, while dealing with the tactical issues of running bureaucracies, networking, managing resources and providing the leadership required to achieve visionary outcomes for Australia. Any senior civil servant who survived the administrations of 22 Premiers and completed 50 years of public service with his envious reputation fully intact could run a Masters course or two in a modern business school.What makes Todd really endearing to his researchers and biographers is his affability. Though it’s tempting to dismiss reports of his employees’ admiration for their leader, attributing this to the rose coloured hue of fond memories, it is impossible to ignore the many flattering reports found in news articles of his day. There is no doubt that the Adelaide Newspaper of record, the South Australian Register, was enthralled with the man in his latter years with many favourable reports of his activities. By the time of his death in late January 1910, he was a national treasure. But even at that final point, the measure of the man was his request that his funeral cortege was not to proceed down King William Street as was the tradition, since this would disturb the rhythm of the city. Instead, mourners proceeded directly to North Road Cemetery with minimal disturbance to the daily endeavours of his fellow citizens.
Consisting of members from six science and technology socities in South Australia, the group formed in 2012 to mount the Sir Charles Todd Symposium. The Symposium marked a gathering of Todd family descendants in Adeliade. Covering astronomy, meteorology, electrical engineering, surveying, telecommunications and the postal system, Symposium speakers recognised the importance of Todd in establishing each of their disciplines. However, no one had a comprehensive view of this pioneer and the Symposium was the first known attempt to bring the main treads of the story together.The Symposium attracted a sellout audience of 150 “Todd-o-philes” and was a great success for speakers and audience alike. Realising that there was an even more comprehensive story to reveal, the speakers continued their collaboration. The first vehicle for this work was the creation of a mobile app aimed at the general public. An attendee of the Symposium (Roger Edmonds) donated his expertise in online education systems to support the work. The app was launched in May 2014 at the Royal Institute Australia (RiAus), fittingly on the 125 anniversary of Todd’s accession to the original Royal Institute in England.The third major endeavour of the Research Group now occupies it with the ongoing construction of an online research centre, containing copious reference material for those interested in the professional and civic life of Charles Todd. In the fullness of time this centre is expected to contain upwards of 3,000 documents. All documents go through a review process to ensure their veracity before inclusion in the database. A find-and-retrieve tool is available to identify documents relevant to specified search criteria.In parallel with the online research presence, this website has been created to act as an entry point to all the work of the Committee members relating to Sir Charles Todd.DISCLAIMERThe full story of Charles Todd has is a story waiting to be told. The Research Group is aware that they will not see its full expanse, thus, this website and its links do not detail the final and authoritative account.