Mark Oliphant, AC, KBE, FRS (1901-2000)
by Mary W Maxwell
Today would be Sir Mark Oliphant’s 115th birthday. Yes, he was born with Federation. He was the oldest of five boys.
In the twenties, after graduating from University of Adelaide, he set sail (like, um, no airports, you know) for Cambridge University. There he worked in the Cavendish Labs under Rutherford of New Zealand who treated him like a son.
The atom was still a mystery, imagine that. (Well, it still is, I suppose.) Oliphant was a major discoverer of microwave, stemming from his pioneer work with radar. Thus he found his way into the Manhattan Project and lived in New Mexico.
Years later he regretted being a part of the development of the atomic weapon.
In 1954 he and a few other big scholars founded the Australian National University. Yes in those days it was thinkers who did that sort of thing.
Mark was my neighbor and dear friend in the 1980s. He once told me that if you haven’t tasted pure mathematics you haven’t lived.
Imagine a kid from Adelaide having notions like that. If you have teenage children I recommend you get them a copy of the wonderful biography “Oliphant” by the late Stewart Cockburn and David Ellyard.
Photo Credit: biografiasyvidas.com