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Sir Marcus Laurence Elwin "Mark" Oliphant, (8 October 1901 – 14 July 2000) was an Australian
physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at leas ...

physicist
and
humanitarian Humanitarianism is an active belief in the value of human life, whereby human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classificat ...
who played an important role in the first experimental demonstration of
nuclear fusion Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction, reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products ...

nuclear fusion
and in the development of nuclear weapons. Born and raised in
Adelaide Adelaide ( ) is the capital city A capital or capital city is the municipality holding primary status in a Department (country subdivision), department, country, Constituent state, state, province, or other administrative region, usually ...

Adelaide
,
South Australia South Australia (abbreviated as SA) is a States and territories of Australia, state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of , it is the fourth-largest of Austral ...

South Australia
, Oliphant graduated from the
University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide (informally Adelaide University) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization ...

University of Adelaide
in 1922. He was awarded an
1851 Exhibition Scholarship The 1851 Research Fellowship is a scheme conducted by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to annually award a three-year research scholarship to approximately eight "young scientists or engineers of exceptional promise". The fellowship ...
in 1927 on the strength of the research he had done on
mercury Mercury usually refers to: * Mercury (planet) Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes 87.97 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun's planets. It is named after the Roman g ...

mercury
, and went to England, where he studied under Sir
Ernest Rutherford Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand-born British physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The sci ...
at the
University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge. , established = , other_name = The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of ...
's
Cavendish Laboratory The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the School of Physical Sciences. The laboratory was opened in 1874 on the New Museums Site as a laboratory for experimental physics and is named ...

Cavendish Laboratory
. There, he used a
particle accelerator A particle accelerator is a machine that uses electromagnetic fields to propel electric charge, charged particles to very high speeds and energies, and to contain them in well-defined particle beam, beams. Large accelerators are used for funda ...
to fire
heavy hydrogen Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two Stable isotope ratio, stable isotopes of hydrogen (the other being Hydrogen atom, protium, or hydrogen-1). The atomic nucleus, nucleus of a deuterium ato ...
nuclei ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
(
deuteron Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two stable isotopes The term stable isotope has a meaning similar to stable nuclide, but is preferably used when speaking of nuclides of a specific element ...

deuteron
s) at various targets. He discovered the respective nuclei of
helium-3 Helium-3 (3He see also helion) is a light, stable isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge Ele ...

helium-3
(helions) and of
tritium Tritium ( or , ) or hydrogen-3 (symbol T or H) is a rare and radioactive Radioactive decay (also known as nuclear decay, radioactivity, radioactive disintegration or nuclear disintegration) is the process by which an unstable atomic nucl ...

tritium
(tritons). He also discovered that when they reacted with each other, the particles that were released had far more energy than they started with. Energy had been liberated from inside the nucleus, and he realised that this was a result of nuclear fusion. Oliphant left the Cavendish Laboratory in 1937 to become the
Poynting
Poynting
Professor of Physics at the
University of Birmingham The University of Birmingham (informally Birmingham University) is a public university, public research university located in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Queen's College, Birmingh ...

University of Birmingham
. He attempted to build a
cyclotron A cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator , a synchrotron collider type particle accelerator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), Batavia, Illinois, USA. Shut down in 2011, until 2007 it was the most powerful particle ac ...

cyclotron
at the university, but its completion was postponed by the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe in 1939. He became involved with the development of
radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...

radar
, heading a group at the University of Birmingham that included John Randall and
Harry Boot Henry Albert Howard Boot (29 July 1917 – 8 February 1983) was an English physicist who with Sir John Randall and James Sayers James Sayers (or Sayer) (1748 – April 20, 1823) was an English caricaturist . Many of his works are described i ...
. They created a radical new design, the
cavity magnetron The cavity magnetron is a high-power vacuum tube A vacuum tube, electron tube, valve (British usage), or tube (North America), is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric volt ...
, that made
microwave radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...
possible. Oliphant also formed part of the
MAUD Committee The MAUD Committee was a British scientific working group formed during the Second World War. It was established to perform the research required to determine if an atomic bomb was feasible. The name MAUD came from a strange line in a telegram fro ...
, which reported in July 1941, that an
atomic bomb A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either nuclear fission, fiss ...

atomic bomb
was not only feasible, but might be produced as early as 1943. Oliphant was instrumental in spreading the word of this finding in the United States, thereby starting what became the
Manhattan Project The Manhattan Project was a research and development Research and development (R&D, R+D), known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), is the set of innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in ...
. Later in the war, he worked on it with his friend
Ernest Lawrence Ernest Orlando Lawrence (August 8, 1901 – August 27, 1958) was a pioneering American nuclear scientist Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents and interactions. Other forms of nuclear ma ...

Ernest Lawrence
at the
Radiation Laboratory The Radiation Laboratory, commonly called the Rad Lab, was a microwave Microwave is a form of electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituen ...
in
Berkeley, California Berkeley ( ) is a city on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California, Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish people, Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cit ...
, developing
electromagnetic isotope separation A calutron is a mass spectrometer Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio The mass-to-charge ratio (''m''/''Q'') is a physical quantity A physical quantity is a physical property of ...
, which provided the
fissile In nuclear engineering Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, ve ...
component of the
Little Boy "Little Boy" was the codename for the type of atomic bomb A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructi ...

Little Boy
atomic bomb used in the
atomic bombing of Hiroshima The United States detonated two nuclear weapons A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive f ...
in August 1945. After the war, Oliphant returned to Australia as the first director of the
Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering The Research School of Physics (RSPhys) was established with the creation of the Australian National University The Australian National University (ANU) is a national research university located in Canberra Canberra ( ) is the cap ...
at the new
Australian National University The Australian National University (ANU) is a national research university located in Canberra Canberra ( ) is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the Federation of Australia, federation of the colonies of Australia as t ...
(ANU), where he initiated the design and construction of the world's largest (500 megajoule)
homopolar generator A homopolar generator is a DC electrical generator In electricity generation Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For electric utility, utilities in the electric power industry, it i ...

homopolar generator
. He retired in 1967, but was appointed
Governor of South Australia The governor of South Australia is the representative in the Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian contin ...
on the advice of
Premier Premier is a title for the head of government The head of government is either the highest or second-highest official in the Executive (government), executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, aut ...
Don Dunstan Donald Allan Dunstan (21 September 1926 – 6 February 1999) was an Australian politician. He entered politics as the Member for Norwood in 1953 at age 26, became leader of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party in 1967, a ...
. He became the first South Australian-born governor in South Australia. He assisted in the founding of the
Australian Democrats The Australian Democrats is a centrist Centrism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and politica ...

Australian Democrats
political party, and he was the chairman of the meeting in Melbourne in 1977, at which the party was launched. Late in life he witnessed his wife, Rosa, suffer before her death in 1987, and he became an advocate for voluntary
euthanasia Euthanasia (from el, εὐθανασία 'good death': εὖ, ''eu'' 'well, good' + θάνατος, ''thanatos'' 'death') is the practice of intentionally ending life to relieve pain and suffering. Different countries have different Legality ...

euthanasia
. He died in Canberra in 2000.


Early life

Marcus "Mark" Laurence Elwin Oliphant was born on 8 October 1901 in
Kent Town Kent Town is an inner urban suburb of Adelaide Adelaide ( ) is the capital city A capital or capital city is the municipality holding primary status in a Department (country subdivision), department, country, Constituent state, state, ...
, a suburb of Adelaide. His father was Harold George "Baron" Olifent, a
civil servant The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leader ...
with the
South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department
South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department
and part-time lecturer in Economics with the
Workers' Educational Association The Workers' Educational Association (WEA), founded in 1903, is the UK's largest voluntary sector provider of adult education and one of Britain's biggest charities. The WEA is a democratic and voluntary adult education movement. It delivers lear ...
. His mother was Beatrice Edith Fanny Oliphant, née Tucker, an artist. He was named after
Marcus Clarke Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke (24 April 1846 – 2 August 1881) was an English-born Australian novelist, journalist, poet, editor, librarian and playwright. He is best known for his 1874 novel ''For the Term of His Natural Life'', about the conv ...
, the Australian author, and Laurence Oliphant, the British traveller and mystic. Most people called him Mark; this became official when he was knighted in 1959. He had four younger brothers: Roland, Keith, Nigel and Donald; all were registered at birth with the surname Olifent. His grandfather, Harry Smith Olifent (7 November 1848 – 30 January 1916) was a clerk at the Adelaide GPO, and his great-grandfather James Smith Olifent (c. 1818 – 21 January 1890) and his wife Eliza (c. 1821 – 18 October 1881) left their native
Kent Kent is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Robert ...

Kent
for South Australia aboard the barque ''Ruby'', arriving in March 1854. He would later be appointed Superintendent of the
Adelaide Destitute Asylum The Destitute Asylum was an institution funded by the government of colonial South Australia to support those of its citizens who had no means of financial support, especially new arrivals and mothers with children. History In 1839 ''The Register'' ...
, and Eliza Olifent was appointed Matron of the establishment in 1865. Mark's last given name, Elwin, was the maiden name of his great-grandfather's mother, and was included in the given names of many of her descendants in South Australia. Mark's parents were
Theosophist Theosophy is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is volunt ...
s, and as such may have refrained from eating meat. Marcus became a lifelong
vegetarian Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and it may also include abstaining from by-products of animal slaughter. Vegetarianism may be adopted for v ...

vegetarian
while a boy, after witnessing the slaughter of pigs on a farm. He was found to be completely deaf in one ear and he needed glasses for severe
astigmatism Astigmatism is a type of refractive error Refractive error, also known as refraction error, is a problem with focus FOCUS is a fourth-generation programming language (4GL) computer programming programming language, language and development ...

astigmatism
and short-sightedness. Oliphant was first educated at primary schools in Goodwood and Mylor, after the family moved there in 1910. He attended
Unley High School Unley High School, located in Netherby, South Australia. History Unley High School was founded in 1910 as one of the first public high schools to be established after Adelaide High School in 1908. Initially it was under the control of the He ...
in Adelaide, and, for his final year in 1918,
Adelaide High School Adelaide High School is a coeducational state high school A secondary school describes an institution that provides secondary education Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education The ...

Adelaide High School
. After graduation he failed to obtain a
bursary A bursary is a monetary Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corner, 174x174px ...
to attend university, so he took a job with S. Schlank & Co., an Adelaide manufacturing jeweller noted for medallions. He then secured a
cadetship A cadet is an officer trainee or candidate. The term is frequently used to refer to those training to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. Its meaning may vary between countries. Usage by country Antig ...
with the
State Library of South Australia The State Library of South Australia, or SLSA, formerly known as the Public Library of South Australia, located on North Terrace, Adelaide, is the official library of the Australian state of South Australia. It is the largest public research libr ...
, which allowed him to take courses at the
University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide (informally Adelaide University) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization ...

University of Adelaide
at night. In 1919, Oliphant began studying at the University of Adelaide. At first he was interested in a career in medicine, but later in the year
Kerr Grant
Kerr Grant
, the physics professor, offered him a cadetship in the Physics Department. It paid 10
shilling The shilling is a historical coin, and the name of a unit of modern currencies A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-D ...
s a week (), the same amount that Oliphant received for working at the State Library, but it allowed him to take any university course that did not conflict with his work for the department. He received his
Bachelor of Science A Bachelor of Science (BS, BSc, SB, or ScB; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare' ...
(BSc) degree in 1921 and then did
honours Honour (British English) or honor (American English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of socia ...
the following year, supervised by Grant. Roy Burdon, who acted as head of the department when Grant went on sabbatical in 1925, worked with Oliphant to produce two papers in 1927 on the properties of
mercury Mercury usually refers to: * Mercury (planet) Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes 87.97 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun's planets. It is named after the Roman g ...

mercury
, "The Problem of the Surface Tension of Mercury and the Action of Aqueous Solutions on a Mercury Surface" and "Adsorption of Gases on the Surface of Mercury". Oliphant later recalled that Burdon taught him "the extraordinary exhilaration there was in even minor discoveries in the field of physics". Oliphant married Rosa Louise Wilbraham, who was also from Adelaide, on 23 May 1925. The two had known each other since they were teenagers. He made Rosa's wedding ring in the laboratory from a gold nugget (from the
Coolgardie
Coolgardie
Goldfields) that his father had given him.


Cavendish Laboratory

In 1925, Oliphant heard a speech given by the New Zealand physicist Sir
Ernest Rutherford Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand-born British physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The sci ...
, and he decided he wanted to work for him – an ambition that he fulfilled by earning a position at the
Cavendish Laboratory The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the School of Physical Sciences. The laboratory was opened in 1874 on the New Museums Site as a laboratory for experimental physics and is named ...

Cavendish Laboratory
at the
University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge. , established = , other_name = The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of ...
in 1927. He applied for an
1851 Exhibition Scholarship The 1851 Research Fellowship is a scheme conducted by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to annually award a three-year research scholarship to approximately eight "young scientists or engineers of exceptional promise". The fellowship ...
on the strength of the research he had done on mercury with Burdon. It came with a living allowance of £250 per annum (). When word came through that he had been awarded a fellowship, he
wired ''Wired'' (stylized as ''WIRED'') is a monthly American magazine, published in print and online magazine, online editions, that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy, and politics. Owned by Condé Nast, it is headquar ...
Rutherford and
Trinity College Trinity College may refer to: Australia * Trinity Anglican College, an Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican coeducational primary and secondary school in , New South Wales * Trinity Catholic College, Auburn, a coeducational school in the inner-w ...
, Cambridge. Both accepted him. Rutherford's Cavendish Laboratory was carrying out some of the most advanced research into
nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in ot ...
in the world at the time. Oliphant was invited to afternoon tea by Rutherford and Lady Rutherford. He soon met other researchers at the Cavendish Laboratory, including
Patrick Blackett Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Baron Blackett (18 November 1897 – 13 July 1974) was a British experimental An experiment is a procedure carried out to support or refute a hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a ...
,
Edward Bullard Sir Edward "Teddy" Crisp Bullard Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (21 September 1907 – 3 April 1980) was a British geophysics, geophysicist who is considered, along with Maurice Ewing, to have founded the discipline of marine geophysics. He d ...
,
James Chadwick Sir James Chadwick, (20 October 1891 – 24 July 1974) was a British physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical m ...

James Chadwick
,
John Cockcroft Sir John Douglas Cockcroft, (27 May 1897 – 18 September 1967) was a British physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, emp ...
, Charles Ellis,
Peter Kapitza Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa or Peter Kapitza (Russian language, Russian: Пётр Леонидович Капица, Romanian language, Romanian: Petre Capița ( – 8 April 1984) was a leading Soviet Union, Soviet physicist, engineer and Nobel ...
, Philip Moon and
Ernest Walton Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton (6 October 1903 – 25 June 1995) was an Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland, an island situated off the north-western coast of continental Europe ** Northe ...

Ernest Walton
. There were two fellow Australians:
Harrie Massey Sir Harrie Stewart Wilson Massey (16 May 1908 – 27 November 1983) was an Australian mathematical physicist who worked primarily in the fields of atomic and atmospheric physics Within the atmospheric sciences, atmospheric physics is the a ...
and John Keith Roberts. Oliphant would become especially close friends with Cockcroft. The laboratory had considerable talent but little money to spare, and tended to use a "string and sealing wax" approach to experimental equipment. Oliphant had to buy his own equipment, at one point spending £24 () of his allowance on a
vacuum pump A vacuum pump is a device that draws gas Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), ...

vacuum pump
. Oliphant submitted his
PhD A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known a ...
thesis on ''The Neutralization of Positive Ions at Metal Surfaces, and the Emission of Secondary Electrons'' in December 1929. For his ''
viva Viva may refer to: Companies and organisations * Viva (network operator), a Dominican mobile network operator * Viva Air, a Spanish airline taken over by flag carrier Iberia * Viva Air Dominicana * VIVA Bahrain, a telecommunication company * Vi ...
'', he was examined by Rutherford and Ellis. Receiving his degree was the attainment of a major life goal, but it also meant the end of his 1851 Exhibition Scholarship. Oliphant secured an 1851 Senior Studentship, of which there were five awarded each year. It came with a living allowance of £450 per annum () for two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension in exceptional circumstances, which Oliphant was also awarded. A son, Geoffrey Bruce Oliphant, was born 6 October 1930, but he died of
meningitis Meningitis is an acute Acute may refer to: Science and technology * Acute angle ** Acute triangle ** Acute, a leaf shape in the glossary of leaf morphology#acute, glossary of leaf morphology * Acute (medicine), a disease that it is of short dur ...
on 5 September 1933, and was interred in an unmarked grave in the
Ascension Parish Burial Ground The Ascension Parish Burial Ground, formerly the burial ground for the parish of St Giles' Church, Cambridge, St Giles and St Peter's Church, Cambridge, St Peter's, is a cemetery in Cambridge, England. It includes the graves and memorials of many ...
in Cambridge alongside Timothy Cockcroft, the infant son of Sir John and Lady Elizabeth Cockcroft, who had died the year before. Unable to have more children, the Oliphants adopted a four-month-old boy, Michael John, in 1936, and a daughter, Vivian, in 1938. In 1932 and 1933, the scientists at the Cavendish Laboratory made a series of ground-breaking discoveries. Cockcroft and Walton bombarded
lithium Lithium (from el, λίθος, lithos, lit=stone) is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: the ...

lithium
with high energy
proton A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge of +1''e'' elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are collecti ...

proton
s and succeeded in transmuting it into energetic
nuclei ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
of
helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectively. often given the epithets Hyperion ("the one above") and Phaethon ("the shining" ...

helium
. This was one of the earliest experiments to change the
atomic nucleus The atomic nucleus is the small, dense region consisting of s and s at the center of an , discovered in 1911 by based on the 1909 . After the discovery of the neutron in 1932, models for a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons were quickl ...
of one element to another by artificial means. Chadwick then devised an experiment that discovered a new, uncharged particle with roughly the same mass as the proton: the
neutron The neutron is a subatomic particle, symbol or , which has a neutral (not positive or negative) charge, and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton. Protons and neutrons constitute the nuclei of atoms. Since protons and neutrons behav ...

neutron
. In 1933, Blackett discovered tracks in his
cloud chamber A cloud chamber, also known as a Wilson cloud chamber, is a particle detector In experimental and applied particle physics Particle physics (also known as high energy physics) is a branch of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική ...

cloud chamber
that confirmed the existence of the
positron The positron or antielectron is the antiparticle s (left) and antiparticles (right). From top to bottom; electron The electron is a subatomic particle In physical sciences, subatomic particles are smaller than atom An atom is ...

positron
and revealed the opposing spiral traces of positron–electron
pair production Pair production is the creation of a subatomic particle and its antiparticle from a electric charge, neutral boson. Examples include creating an electron and a positron, a muon and an antimuon, or a proton and an antiproton. Pair production often ...

pair production
. Oliphant followed up the work by constructing a
particle accelerator A particle accelerator is a machine that uses electromagnetic fields to propel electric charge, charged particles to very high speeds and energies, and to contain them in well-defined particle beam, beams. Large accelerators are used for funda ...
that could fire protons with up to 600,000
electronvolts In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. ...
of energy. He soon confirmed the results of Cockcroft and Walton on the artificial disintegration of the nucleus and positive
ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
s. He produced a series of six papers over the following two years. In 1933, the Cavendish Laboratory received a gift from the American
physical chemist Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic scale, macroscopic and particulate phenomena in chemistry, chemical systems in terms of the principles, practices, and concepts of physics such as Motion (physics), motion, energy, force, time, therm ...
Gilbert N. Lewis of a few drops of
heavy water Heavy water (deuterium oxide, , ) is a form of water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a ). I ...

heavy water
. The accelerator was used to fire
heavy hydrogen Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two Stable isotope ratio, stable isotopes of hydrogen (the other being Hydrogen atom, protium, or hydrogen-1). The atomic nucleus, nucleus of a deuterium ato ...
nuclei (''
deuteron Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two stable isotopes The term stable isotope has a meaning similar to stable nuclide, but is preferably used when speaking of nuclides of a specific element ...

deuteron
s'', which Rutherford called ''diplons'') at various targets. Working with Rutherford and others, Oliphant thereby discovered the nuclei of
helium-3 Helium-3 (3He see also helion) is a light, stable isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge Ele ...

helium-3
(''helions'') and
tritium Tritium ( or , ) or hydrogen-3 (symbol T or H) is a rare and radioactive Radioactive decay (also known as nuclear decay, radioactivity, radioactive disintegration or nuclear disintegration) is the process by which an unstable atomic nucl ...

tritium
(''tritons''). Oliphant used
electromagnetic separation Isotope separation is the process of concentrating specific isotope Isotopes are variants of a particular chemical element which differ in neutron number, and consequently in nucleon number. All isotopes of a given element have the same number ...

electromagnetic separation
to separate the isotopes of lithium. He was the first to experimentally demonstrate
nuclear fusion Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction, reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products ...

nuclear fusion
. He found that when deuterons reacted with nuclei of helium-3, tritium or with other deuterons, the particles that were released had far more energy than they started with.
Binding energy In physics and chemistry, binding energy is the smallest amount of energy In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of know ...

Binding energy
had been liberated from inside the nucleus. Following
Arthur Eddington Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (28 December 1882 – 22 November 1944) was an English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician. He was also a Philosophy of science, philosopher of science and a populariser of science. The Eddington limit, the nat ...

Arthur Eddington
's 1920 prediction that energy released by small nuclei together could provide the energy source that powers the stars, Oliphant speculated that nuclear fusion reactions might be what powered the sun. With its higher
cross section Cross section may refer to: * Cross section (geometry) **Multiview orthographic projection#Section, Cross-sectional views in architecture & engineering 3D *Cross section (geology) * Cross section (electronics) * Radar cross section, measure of det ...
, the deuterium–tritium nuclear fusion reaction became the basis of a
hydrogen bomb lenses2) Uranium-238 ("tamper") lined with beryllium reflector3) Vacuum ("levitated core")4) Tritium "boost" gas (blue) within plutonium or uranium hollow core 5) Radiation channel filled with polystyrene foam6) Uranium ("pusher/tamper")7) Lithium ...

hydrogen bomb
. Oliphant had not foreseen this development: In 1934, Cockcroft arranged for Oliphant to become a fellow of
St John's College, Cambridge St John's College is a constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) educatio ...

St John's College, Cambridge
, which paid about £600 a year). When Chadwick left the Cavendish Laboratory for the
University of Liverpool , mottoeng = These days of peace foster learning , established = 1881 – University College Liverpool1884 – affiliated to the federal Victoria Universityhttp://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukla/2004/4 University of Manchester Act 200 ...
in 1935, Oliphant and Ellis both replaced him as Rutherford's assistant director for research. The job came with a salary of £600 (). With the money from St John's, this gave him a comfortable income. Oliphant soon fitted out a new accelerator laboratory with a 1.23
MeV In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "P ...
generator at a cost of £6,000 () while he designed an even larger 2 MeV generator. He was the first to conceive of the proton
synchrotron A synchrotron is a particular type of cyclic particle accelerator , a synchrotron collider type particle accelerator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), Batavia, Illinois, USA. Shut down in 2011, until 2007 it was the most po ...

synchrotron
, a new type of cyclic particle accelerator. In 1937, he was elected to the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization that exis ...
. When he died he was its longest-serving fellow.


University of Birmingham

Samuel Walter Johnson Smith's imminent mandatory retirement at age 65 prompted a search for a new Professor of Physics at the
University of Birmingham The University of Birmingham (informally Birmingham University) is a public university, public research university located in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Queen's College, Birmingh ...

University of Birmingham
. The University wanted not just a replacement, but a well-known name, and was willing to spend lavishly in order to build up nuclear physics expertise at Birmingham. Neville Moss, its Professor of Mining Engineering and the Dean of its Faculty of Science approached Oliphant, who presented his terms. In addition to his salary of £1,300 (), he wanted the University to spend £2,000 () to upgrade the laboratory, and another £1,000 per annum () on it. And he did not wish to start until October 1937, to enable him to wrap up his work at the Cavendish Laboratory. Moss agreed to Oliphant's terms. To obtain funding for the
cyclotron A cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator , a synchrotron collider type particle accelerator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), Batavia, Illinois, USA. Shut down in 2011, until 2007 it was the most powerful particle ac ...

cyclotron
that he wanted, Oliphant wrote to the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, who was from Birmingham. Chamberlain took up the matter with his friend Lord Nuffield, who provided £60,000 () for the project, enough for the cyclotron, a new building to house it, and a trip to
Berkeley, California Berkeley ( ) is a city on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California, Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish people, Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cit ...
, so Oliphant could confer with
Ernest Lawrence Ernest Orlando Lawrence (August 8, 1901 – August 27, 1958) was a pioneering American nuclear scientist Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents and interactions. Other forms of nuclear ma ...

Ernest Lawrence
, the inventor of the cyclotron. Lawrence supported the project, sending Oliphant the plans of the cyclotron that he was constructing at Berkeley, and inviting Oliphant to visit him at the
Radiation Laboratory The Radiation Laboratory, commonly called the Rad Lab, was a microwave Microwave is a form of electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituen ...
. Oliphant sailed for New York on 10 December 1938, and met Lawrence in Berkeley. The two men got along very well, dining at ''Trader Vic's'' in Oakland. Oliphant was aware of the problems in building cyclotrons encountered by Chadwick at the University of Liverpool and Cockcroft at the Cavendish Laboratory, and intended to avoid these and get his cyclotron built on time and on budget by following Lawrence's specifications as closely as possible. He hoped that it would be running by Christmas 1939, but the outbreak of the Second World War quashed his hopes. The Nuffield Cyclotron would not be completed until after the war.


Radar

In 1938, Oliphant became involved with the development of
radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...

radar
, then still a secret. While visiting prototype radar stations, he realised that shorter-wavelength radio waves were needed urgently, especially if there was to be any chance of building a radar set small enough to fit into an aircraft. In August 1939, he took a small group to Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, to examine the Chain Home system first hand. He obtained a grant from the British Admiralty, Admiralty to develop radar systems with wavelengths less than ; the best available at the time was . Oliphant's group at Birmingham worked on developing two promising devices, the klystron and the magnetron. Working with James Sayers (physicist), James Sayers, Oliphant managed to produce an improved version of the klystron capable of generating 400W. Meanwhile, two more members of his Birmingham team, John Randall and
Harry Boot Henry Albert Howard Boot (29 July 1917 – 8 February 1983) was an English physicist who with Sir John Randall and James Sayers James Sayers (or Sayer) (1748 – April 20, 1823) was an English caricaturist . Many of his works are described i ...
, worked on a radical new design, a cavity magnetron. By February 1940, they had an output of 400W with a wavelength of , just the kind of microwaves, short wavelengths needed for good airborne radars. The magnetron's power was soon increased a hundred-fold, and Birmingham concentrated on magnetron development. The first operational magnetrons were delivered in August 1941. This invention was one of the key scientific breakthroughs during the war and played a major part in defeating the German U-boats, intercepting enemy bombers, and in directing Allied bombers. In 1940, the Fall of France, and the possibility that Britain might be invaded, prompted Oliphant to send his wife and children to Australia. The Fall of Singapore in February 1942 led him to offer his services to John Madsen (physicist), John Madsen, the Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Sydney, and the head of the Radiophysics Laboratory at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which was responsible for developing radar. He embarked from Glasgow for Australia on on 20 March. The voyage, part of a 46-ship convoy, was a slow one, with the convoy frequently zigzagging to avoid U-boats, and the ship did not reach Fremantle until 27 May. The Australians were already preparing to produce radar sets locally. Oliphant persuaded Professor Thomas Laby to release Eric Burhop and Leslie H. Martin, Leslie Martin from their work on optical munitions to work on radar, and they succeeded in building a cavity magnetron in their laboratory at the University of Melbourne in May 1942. Oliphant worked with Martin on the process of moving the magnetrons for the laboratory to the production line. Over 2,000 radar sets were produced in Australia during the war.


Manhattan Project

At the University of Birmingham in March 1940, Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls examined the theoretical issues involved in developing, producing and using
atomic bomb A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either nuclear fission, fiss ...

atomic bomb
s in a paper that became known as the Frisch–Peierls memorandum. They considered what would happen to a sphere of pure uranium-235, and found that not only could a chain reaction occur, but it might require as little as of uranium-235 to unleash the energy of hundreds of tons of TNT. The first person they showed their paper to was Oliphant, and he immediately took it to Sir Henry Tizard, the chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Warfare (CSSAW). As a result, a special subcommittee of the CSSAW known as the
MAUD Committee The MAUD Committee was a British scientific working group formed during the Second World War. It was established to perform the research required to determine if an atomic bomb was feasible. The name MAUD came from a strange line in a telegram fro ...
was created to investigate the matter further. It was chaired by Sir George Paget Thomson, George Thomson, and its original membership included Oliphant, Chadwick, Cockcroft and Moon. In its final report in July 1941, the MAUD Committee concluded that an atomic bomb was not only feasible, but might be produced as early as 1943. Great Britain was at war and authorities there thought that the development of an atomic bomb was urgent, but there was much less urgency in the United States. Oliphant was one of the people who pushed the American program into motion. On 5 August 1941, Oliphant flew to the United States in a B-24 Liberator bomber, ostensibly to discuss the radar-development program, but was assigned to find out why the United States was ignoring the findings of the MAUD Committee. He later recalled: "the minutes and reports had been sent to Lyman Briggs, who was the Director of the Uranium Committee, and we were puzzled to receive virtually no comment. I called on Briggs in Washington [DC], only to find out that this inarticulate and unimpressive man had put the reports in his safe and had not shown them to members of his committee. I was amazed and distressed." Oliphant then met with the Uranium Committee at its meeting in New York on 26 August 1941. Samuel King Allison, Samuel K. Allison, a new member of the Committee, was an experimental physicist and a protégé of Arthur Compton at the University of Chicago. He recalled that Oliphant "came to a meeting and said 'bomb' in no uncertain terms. He told us we must concentrate every effort on the bomb, and said we had no right to work on power plants or anything but the bomb. The bomb would cost 25 million dollars, he said, and Britain did not have the money or the manpower, so it was up to us." Allison was surprised that Briggs had kept the committee in the dark. Oliphant then travelled to Berkeley, where he met his friend Lawrence on 23 September, giving him a copy of the Frisch–Peierls memorandum. Lawrence had Robert Oppenheimer check the figures, bringing him into the project for the first time. Oliphant found another ally in Oppenheimer, and he not only managed to convince Lawrence and Oppenheimer that an atomic bomb was feasible, but inspired Lawrence to convert his cyclotron into a giant mass spectrometer for
electromagnetic isotope separation A calutron is a mass spectrometer Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio The mass-to-charge ratio (''m''/''Q'') is a physical quantity A physical quantity is a physical property of ...
, a technique Oliphant had pioneered in 1934. Leo Szilard later wrote, "if Congress knew the true history of the atomic energy project, I have no doubt but that it would create a special medal to be given to meddling foreigners for distinguished services, and that Dr Oliphant would be the first to receive one." On 26 October 1942, Oliphant embarked from Melbourne, taking Rosa and the children back with him. The wartime sea voyage on the French ''Desirade'' was again a slow one, and they did not reach Glasgow until 28 February 1943. He had to leave them behind once more in November 1943 after the British Tube Alloys effort was merged with the American
Manhattan Project The Manhattan Project was a research and development Research and development (R&D, R+D), known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), is the set of innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in ...
by the Quebec Agreement, and he left for the United States as part of the British contribution to the Manhattan Project, British Mission. Oliphant was one of the scientists whose services the Americans were most eager to secure. Oppenheimer, who was now the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory attempted to persuade him to join the team there, but Oliphant preferred to head a team assisting his friend Lawrence at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley to develop the electromagnetic uranium enrichment—a vital but less overtly military part of the project. Oliphant secured the services of fellow Australian physicist
Harrie Massey Sir Harrie Stewart Wilson Massey (16 May 1908 – 27 November 1983) was an Australian mathematical physicist who worked primarily in the fields of atomic and atmospheric physics Within the atmospheric sciences, atmospheric physics is the a ...
, who had been working for the Admiralty on magnetic mines, along with James Stayers and Stanley Duke, who had worked with him on the
cavity magnetron The cavity magnetron is a high-power vacuum tube A vacuum tube, electron tube, valve (British usage), or tube (North America), is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric volt ...
. This initial group set out for Berkeley in a B-24 Liberator bomber in November 1943. Oliphant became Lawrence's ''de facto'' deputy, and was in charge of the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory when Lawrence was absent. Although based in Berkeley, he often visited Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the separation plant was, and was an occasional visitor to Los Alamos. He made efforts to involve Australian scientists in the project, and had Sir David Rivett, the head of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, release Eric Burhop to work on the Manhattan Project. He briefed Stanley Bruce, the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, on the project, and urged the Australian government to secure Australian uranium deposits. A meeting with Major general (United States), Major General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, at Berkeley in September 1944, convinced Oliphant that the Americans intended to monopolise nuclear weapons after the war, restricting British research and production to Canada, and not permitting nuclear weapons technology to be shared with Australia. Characteristically, Oliphant bypassed Chadwick, the head of the British Mission, and sent a report direct to Wallace Akers, the head of the Tube Alloys Directorate in London. Akers summoned Oliphant back to London for consultation. En route, Oliphant met with Chadwick and other members of the British Mission in Washington, where the prospect of resuming an independent British project was discussed. Chadwick was adamant that the cooperation with the Americans should continue, and that Oliphant and his team should remain until the task of building an atomic bomb was finished. Akers sent Chadwick a telegram directing that Oliphant should return to the UK by April 1945. Oliphant returned to England in March 1945, and resumed his post as a professor of physics at the University of Birmingham. He was on holiday in Wales with his family when he first heard of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was later to remark that he felt "sort of proud that the bomb had worked, and absolutely appalled at what it had done to human beings". Oliphant became a harsh critic of nuclear weapons and a member of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, saying, "I, right from the beginning, have been terribly worried by the existence of nuclear weapons and very much against their use." His wartime work would have earned him a Medal of Freedom (1945), Medal of Freedom with Gold Palm, but the Australian government vetoed this honour, as government policy at the time was not to confer honours on civilians.


Later years in Australia

In April 1946, the Prime Minister of Australia, Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, asked Oliphant if he would be a technical advisor to the Australian delegation to the newly formed United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC), which was debating international control of nuclear weapons. Oliphant agreed, and joined the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Australia), Minister for External Affairs, H. V. Evatt and the Australian Representative at the United Nations, Paul Hasluck, to hear the Baruch Plan. The attempt at international control was unsuccessful, and no agreement was reached. Chifley, and the Secretary for Department of Post-War Reconstruction, Post-War Reconstruction, Dr H. C. Coombs, H. C. "Nugget" Coombs, also discussed with Oliphant a plan to create a new research institute that would attract the world's best scholars to Australia and lift the standard of university education nationwide. They hoped to start by attracting three of Australia's most distinguished expatriates: Oliphant, Howard Florey and Sir (William) Keith Hancock, Keith Hancock. It was academic suicide; Australia was far from the centres where the latest research was being carried out, and communications were much poorer at that time. But Oliphant accepted, and in 1950 returned to Australia as the first Director of the
Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering The Research School of Physics (RSPhys) was established with the creation of the Australian National University The Australian National University (ANU) is a national research university located in Canberra Canberra ( ) is the cap ...
at the
Australian National University The Australian National University (ANU) is a national research university located in Canberra Canberra ( ) is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the Federation of Australia, federation of the colonies of Australia as t ...
. Within the school he created a Department of Particle Physics, which he headed himself, a Department of Nuclear Physics under Ernest Titterton, a Department of Geophysics under John Jaeger, a Department of Astronomy under Bart Bok, a Department of Theoretical Physics under Kenneth Le Couteur and a Department of Mathematics under Bernhard Neumann. Oliphant was an advocate of nuclear weapons research. He served on the post-war Technical Committee that advised the British government on nuclear weapons, and publicly declared that Britain needed to develop its own nuclear weapons independent of the United States to "avoid the danger of becoming a lesser power". The establishment of a world-class nuclear physics research capability in Australia was intimately linked with the government's plans to develop nuclear power and weapons. Locating the new research institute in Canberra would place it close to the Snowy Mountains Scheme, which was planned to be the centrepiece of a new nuclear power industry. Oliphant hoped that Britain would assist with the Australian program, and the British were interested in cooperation because Australia had uranium ore and weapons testing sites, and there were concerns that Australia was becoming too closely aligned with the United States. Arrangements were made for Australian scientists to be seconded to the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, but the close cooperation he sought was stymied by security concerns arising from Britain's commitments to the United States. Oliphant envisaged Canberra one day becoming a college town, university town like Oxford or Cambridge. A threat to the future of the University arose in the wake of the 1949 Australian federal election, 1949 election, when the Liberal Party of Australia led by Robert Menzies won. Many Liberals were opposed to the University, which they saw as an extravagance. Menzies defended it, but in 1954 he announced that it had entered a period of consolidation, with a funding ceiling, ending the possibility of successful competition with universities in Europe and North America. A further blow came in 1959, when the Menzies government amalgamated it with the Canberra University College. Henceforth, it would no longer be a research university, but a regular one, with responsibility for teaching undergraduates. Nonetheless, parts of the university stayed committed to the old mission, and the ANU remained a university where research is central to its activities. Despite the setbacks, by 2014 the vision of Canberra as a university town would be well on its way to becoming a reality. In September 1951, Oliphant applied for a visa to travel to the United States for a nuclear physics conference in Chicago. The visa was not refused, nor was Oliphant accused of subversive activities, but neither was it issued. This was the height of the Red Scare. The American McCarran Act restricted travel to the United States, and in Australia the Menzies government was 1951 Australian referendum, attempting to ban the Communist Party, and was not inclined to support Oliphant against the American government. A subsequent request to travel to Canada via Hawaii in September 1954 was refused by the United States Department of State. Although Oliphant was granted a special waiver that allowed him to transit the US, he preferred to cancel the trip rather than accept this humiliation. The Menzies government subsequently excluded him from participating in or observing the British nuclear tests at Maralinga, nor was he allowed access to classified nuclear information for fear of antagonising the US. In 1955, Oliphant initiated the design and construction of a 500 megajoule
homopolar generator A homopolar generator is a DC electrical generator In electricity generation Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For electric utility, utilities in the electric power industry, it i ...

homopolar generator
(HPG), the world's largest. This massive machine contained three discs in diameter and weighing . He obtained £40,000 () initial funding from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Completed in 1963, the HPG was intended to be the power source for a synchrotron, but this was not built. Instead, it was used to power the LT-4 Tokamak and a large-scale railgun that was used as a scientific instrument for experiments with plasma physics. It was decommissioned in 1985. Oliphant founded the Australian Academy of Science in 1954, teaming up with David Martyn to overcome the obstacles that had frustrated previous attempts. Oliphant was its president until 1956. Deciding that the Academy of Science should have its own special building, Oliphant raised the required money from donations. As chairman of the Building Design Committee, he selected and oversaw the construction of one of Canberra's most striking architectural designs. He also delivered the Academy of Science's 1961 Matthew Flinders Lecture, on the subject of "Michael Faraday, Faraday in his time and today". Oliphant retired as Professor of Particle Physics in 1964, and was appointed Professor of Ionised Gases. In this chair he produced his first research papers since the 1930s. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1967. He was invited by the Premier of South Australia, premier,
Don Dunstan Donald Allan Dunstan (21 September 1926 – 6 February 1999) was an Australian politician. He entered politics as the Member for Norwood in 1953 at age 26, became leader of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party in 1967, a ...
, to become the
Governor of South Australia The governor of South Australia is the representative in the Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian contin ...
, a position he held from 1971 to 1976. During this period, he caused great concern to Dunstan when he strongly supported the decision of the Governor-General of Australia, Governor-General, John Kerr (governor-general), Sir John Kerr, in the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. He assisted in the founding of the
Australian Democrats The Australian Democrats is a centrist Centrism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and politica ...

Australian Democrats
political party, and he was the chairman of the meeting in Melbourne in 1977 at which the party was launched. ''The Age'' reported in 1981 that "Sir Mark Oliphant warned the Dunstan Government of the 'grave dangers' of appointing an Australian Aborigine, Sir Douglas Nicholls, to succeed him as South Australia's Governor". Oliphant had secretly written, "[t]here is something inherent in the personality of the Aborigine which makes it difficult for him to adapt fully to the ways of the white man." The authors of Oliphant's biography noted that "that was the prevailing attitude of almost the entire white population of Australia until well after World War II". Oliphant was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1959, and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1977 "for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in the field of public service and in service to the crown". Late in life Oliphant watched his wife, Rosa, suffer before her death in 1987, and he became an advocate for voluntary euthanasia. On 14 July 2000, he died in Canberra, at the age of 98. His body was cremated. His daughter Vivian died from a brain tumour in 2008, after his son Michael died from colon cancer in 1971.


Legacy

Places and things named in honour of Oliphant include the Oliphant Building at the Australian National University, the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, a South Australian high schools science competition, the Oliphant Wing of the Physics Building at the University of Adelaide, Mark Oliphant College, a school in the Adelaide suburb of Munno Para West, South Australia, Munno Para West, and a bridge on Parkes Way in Canberra near his old laboratory at the ANU. His papers are in the Adolph Basser Library at the Australian Academy of Science, and the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide. Oliphant's nephew, Pat Oliphant, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist. His daughter-in-law, Monica Oliphant, is a distinguished Australian physicist specialising in the field of renewable energy, for which she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015.


Honours and awards

* 1937 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society * 1943 Awarded Hughes Medal by the Royal Society * 1946 Awarded Silvanius Thomson Medal, Institute of Radiology * 1948 Awarded Faraday Medal by the Institution of Engineers * 1954 Elected (Foundation) Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science * 1954 Elected (Foundation) President of the Australian Academy of Science * 1955 Invited to deliver the Bakerian Lecture by the Royal Society * 1955 Invited to deliver the Rutherford Memorial Lecture by the Royal Society * 1956 Awarded Galathea Medal by King Frederick IX of Denmark * 1959 Created Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire * 1961 Awarded Matthew Flinders Medal and Lecture * 1976 Inducted as first Honorary Fellow and a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering * 1977 Appointed Companion of the Order of Australia File:J150W-statue-Oliphant.jpg, Statue on North Terrace, Adelaide File:J150W-statue-Oliphant-text.jpg, Text on the statue File:J150W-Oliphant.jpg, Plaque on the Jubilee 150 Walkway


Bibliography

* * *


See also

* Oliphant brothers


Notes


References

* * * * * * *


Further reading

*


External links

* Video interview. * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Oliphant, Mark 1901 births 2000 deaths People from Adelaide Australian physicists Australian nuclear physicists Accelerator physicists Companions of the Order of Australia Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science Governors of South Australia Australian Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire Manhattan Project people Radar pioneers University of Adelaide alumni Australian Fellows of the Royal Society University of Adelaide faculty Academics of the University of Birmingham Australian National University faculty Presidents of the Australian Academy of Science People associated with the nuclear weapons programme of the United Kingdom Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering