‘We are horrified to hear…’

Australian “Ergometer” from the 1960s – from the section “The Development of Rowing Equipment” on the website Friends of Rowing History.

You probably know that rowing machines have been around for more than 130 years. But do you know when the ”ergometer’ arrived on the scene, in the sense of a tool which could measure rowers’ power? In an old copy of the British magazine Rowing, its editor, Major E. A. E. Howell, wrote in the issue Vol.1 No. 3 February 1950 in a very English way:

‘From Australia we are horrified to hear that professor Frank Cotton, The professor at Sydney University, has produced a specially designed rowing machine called Ergometer.

‘On this machine he tested over 200 athletes. From among these he selected four “Guniea Pigs” to train as a crew. This crew averages only a mere 14 stone 8 lbs [92.5 kg]. They use oars a foot longer and blades “several inches” deeper than standard. Although they had not rowed together before last April, this Lichhardt [sic – referring to Leichhardt Rowing Club!] crew has won nine out of eleven races in its first season. It was only defeated for selection to compete in the Empire Games by a four established repute by a very narrow margin. We suppose this is all very efficient but to reduce sportsmen to the inhuman level of automatons, selected on scientific physical assessments, is, to our eyes, the negation of the ideals of a fine sport.’

How wrong he was, Major Howell…..

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