Oliphant

Professor Marcus 'Mark' Laurence Elwin Oliphant (1901 - 2000), a world authority on nuclear energy, was, like Sir Howard Florey, an Adelaide-born scientist working currently in England. Having as an undergraduate failed Physics twice, he finally graduated in 1923 with a first class Physics Honours degree. During World War II, he played a central role in developing the atomic bomb which ended the war, but thereafter he was only ever interested in finding peaceful uses for atomic power. With an outstanding record at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham.

Oliphant had already convinced the Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley of the importance of researching nuclear energy but because it was such a specialised field he did not convene a general meeting at Easter 1948. Instead he met with Chifley and contributed to the discussions between the Academic Board and the Interim Council. By this time, he had almost made up his mind to accept the invitation from the ANU to take up the inaugural Directorship of the School of Physics.

Clearly identifiable by his shock of white hair, Oliphant is shown here in the meeting of the Academic advisory Committee and the interim Council, and in 1953 as the foundation Director of the School of Physics, the appointment that had been discussed, and hoped for, at the time of the Easter Conference.