Oliphant, Sir Mark Laurence




Oliphant, Sir Mark Laurence (1901-2000), Australian physicist and governor of South Australia. Born on October 8, 1901, Oliphant graduated from Adelaide University and in 1927 won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he worked on the artificial disintegration of the atomic nucleus. A Fellow of the Royal Society by 1935, he was appointed Professor of Physics at Birmingham University in 1937, a post he held until 1950.



Returning to Australia, Oliphant became director of postgraduate research in the physical sciences at the Australian National University from 1950 to 1963 and foundation president of the Australian Academy of Science. Appointed Professor of Physics of Ionized Gases at the Australian National University in 1964, he retired in 1966 but continued his research. From 1971 to 1976 he was Governor of South Australia.






Oliphant, Sir Mark




Year in Review 2001: obituary



Australian physicist (b. Oct. 8, 1901, Adelaide, Australia—d. July 14, 2000, Canberra, Australia), was an esteemed specialist in high-energy physics at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, where he had won a scholarship in 1927. Oliphant was also Poynting Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham, Eng. (1937–50), and a co-discoverer (1934) of tritium with Ernest Rutherford and Paul Harteck, and he directed the team (1939) that developed the cavity magnetron used in advanced microwave radar. Having been a member of the British team that split the atom in 1932, he went to the U.S. in 1943 to work on the Manhattan Project, the joint undertaking that designed and built the first atomic bombs. Oliphant later fiercely opposed the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan and the nuclear proliferation that followed, but he endorsed research into atomic energy. After World War II he returned to Australia, where he served as director of the research school of physical sciences at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra (1950–63), president of the Australian Academy of Science (1954–57), and professor of physics of ionized gases at the Institute of Advanced Studies at ANU (1964–67). He was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1937, knighted in 1959, and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1977. From 1971 to 1976 Oliphant also held the post of governor of South Australia.