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Mark Oliphant

Mark Oliphant

Overview
Sir Marcus 'Mark' Laurence Elwin Oliphant, AC, KBE, FRS (8 October 190114 July 2000) was an Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and humanitarian
Humanitarianism
In its most general form, humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings. Humanitarianism has been an evolving concept historically but universality is a common element in its evolution...

 who played a fundamental role in the first experimental demonstration of nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 and also the development of the atomic bomb
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

.

During his retirement, Oliphant was appointed as the Governor of South Australia by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Premier Don Dunstan
Don Dunstan
Donald Allan "Don" Dunstan, AC, QC was a South Australian politician. He entered politics as the Member for Norwood in 1953, became state Labor leader in 1967, and was Premier of South Australia between June 1967 and April 1968, and again between June 1970 and February 1979.The son of a business...

. He assisted in the founding of the Australian Democrats
Australian Democrats
The Australian Democrats is an Australian political party espousing a socially liberal ideology. It was formed in 1977, by a merger of the Australia Party and the New LM, after principals of those minor parties secured the commitment of former Liberal minister Don Chipp, as a high profile leader...

 party, and he was the chairman of the meeting in Melbourne in 1977 at which the political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 was launched.

Oliphant was born the eldest of five sons in Kent Town
Kent Town, South Australia
Kent Town is an inner urban suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. It is located in the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters.-History:The suburb was named after Dr Benjamin Archer Kent, who established a farm and flour mill on which the suburb now stands.....

, a suburb of Adelaide
Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. Adelaide has an estimated population of more than 1.2 million...

, South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

.
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Encyclopedia
Sir Marcus 'Mark' Laurence Elwin Oliphant, AC, KBE, FRS (8 October 190114 July 2000) was an Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and humanitarian
Humanitarianism
In its most general form, humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings. Humanitarianism has been an evolving concept historically but universality is a common element in its evolution...

 who played a fundamental role in the first experimental demonstration of nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 and also the development of the atomic bomb
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

.

During his retirement, Oliphant was appointed as the Governor of South Australia by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Premier Don Dunstan
Don Dunstan
Donald Allan "Don" Dunstan, AC, QC was a South Australian politician. He entered politics as the Member for Norwood in 1953, became state Labor leader in 1967, and was Premier of South Australia between June 1967 and April 1968, and again between June 1970 and February 1979.The son of a business...

. He assisted in the founding of the Australian Democrats
Australian Democrats
The Australian Democrats is an Australian political party espousing a socially liberal ideology. It was formed in 1977, by a merger of the Australia Party and the New LM, after principals of those minor parties secured the commitment of former Liberal minister Don Chipp, as a high profile leader...

 party, and he was the chairman of the meeting in Melbourne in 1977 at which the political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 was launched.

Early life and family


Oliphant was born the eldest of five sons in Kent Town
Kent Town, South Australia
Kent Town is an inner urban suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. It is located in the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters.-History:The suburb was named after Dr Benjamin Archer Kent, who established a farm and flour mill on which the suburb now stands.....

, a suburb of Adelaide
Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. Adelaide has an estimated population of more than 1.2 million...

, South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

. His father was a civil servant and his mother an artist. As a boy, after witnessing the killing of pigs on a farm he became a lifelong vegetarian. He was also found to be completely deaf in one ear and he needed glasses for severe astigmatism
Astigmatism
An optical system with astigmatism is one where rays that propagate in two perpendicular planes have different foci. If an optical system with astigmatism is used to form an image of a cross, the vertical and horizontal lines will be in sharp focus at two different distances...

 and short-sightedness. He went to school at the Unley High School
Unley High School
Unley High School, located in Netherby, is one of the largest public high schools in South Australia. In recent years the number of students enrolled typically ranges from 1,100 to 1,300, but in the early 1960s the school had a peak enrolment of 2,000 students.The school currently has 30...

 in Adelaide.

Oliphant was at first interested in a career in either medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 or dentistry
Dentistry
Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered...

, and he began studying at the University of Adelaide
University of Adelaide
The University of Adelaide is a public university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third oldest university in Australia...

 in 1919. However, his physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 lecturer, Dr. Roy Burdon, influenced him to become a physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 by showing him "the extraordinary exhilaration there was in even minor discoveries in the field of physics".

Cavendish Laboratory



In 1925, Oliphant heard a speech given by the New Zealander physicist, Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics...

, and he decided to work for him – an ambition that he fulfilled by earning a position at the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

 at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 in 1927. It was carrying out the most advanced research into nuclear physics
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 in the world at the time. It was at the Cavendish, for example, that the atom was first split in 1932. Among other research, Oliphant worked on the artificial disintegration
Artificial disintegration
Artificial disintegration is the term coined by Ernest Rutherford for the process by which an atomic nucleus is broken down by bombarding it with high speed alpha particles, either from a particle accelerator, or a naturally decaying radioactive substance such as radium, as Rutherford originally...

 of the atomic nucleus
Atomic nucleus
The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

 and positive ion
Ion
An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. The name was given by physicist Michael Faraday for the substances that allow a current to pass between electrodes in a...

s, and he designed and built complex particle accelerator
Particle accelerator
A particle accelerator is a device that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams. An ordinary CRT television set is a simple form of accelerator. There are two basic types: electrostatic and oscillating field accelerators.In...

s.

Oliphant's primary contribution was his discovery of the nuclei of helium 3 (helions) and tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 (tritons). He also discovered that heavy hydrogen nuclei could be made to react with each other (tritons and helions being the products, along with protons and neutrons). This nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 reaction is the basis of a hydrogen bomb
Teller-Ulam design
The Teller–Ulam design is the nuclear weapon design concept used in most of the world's nuclear weapons. It is colloquially referred to as "the secret of the hydrogen bomb" because it employs hydrogen fusion, though in most applications the bulk of its destructive energy comes from uranium fission,...

 and also hypothetical thermonuclear fusion power
Fusion power
Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion processes. In fusion reactions two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus . In doing so they release a comparatively large amount of energy arising from the binding energy due to the strong nuclear force which is manifested...

 reactors. Ten years later, the American scientist Edward Teller
Edward Teller
Edward Teller was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist, known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb," even though he did not care for the title. Teller made numerous contributions to nuclear and molecular physics, spectroscopy , and surface physics...

 pressed to use Oliphant's discovery in order to build one. Oliphant had not foreseen this:

. . . we had no idea whatever that this would one day be applied to make hydrogen bombs. Our curiosity was just curiosity about the structure of the nucleus of the atom, and the discovery of these reactions was purely, as the Americans would put it, coincidental.

University of Birmingham


In 1937, Oliphant was appointed as a professor of physics at the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

, in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. While visiting prototype radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 stations, he realised that shorter-wavelength radio waves
Radio waves
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies from 300 GHz to as low as 3 kHz, and corresponding wavelengths from 1 millimeter to 100 kilometers. Like all other electromagnetic waves,...

 were needed urgently. In 1939, he obtained a grant from the British Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 to develop radar systems with wavelengths less than 10 centimetres, compared with the best available at the time of 150 cm.

In 1939, Oliphant also visited Berkeley, California
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

, where he met Ernest Lawrence
Ernest Lawrence
Ernest Orlando Lawrence was an American physicist and Nobel Laureate, known for his invention, utilization, and improvement of the cyclotron atom-smasher beginning in 1929, based on his studies of the works of Rolf Widerøe, and his later work in uranium-isotope separation for the Manhattan Project...

, who gave him a complete set of specifications for his 60-inch cyclotron
Cyclotron
In technology, a cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator. In physics, the cyclotron frequency or gyrofrequency is the frequency of a charged particle moving perpendicularly to the direction of a uniform magnetic field, i.e. a magnetic field of constant magnitude and direction...

. A copy was commenced at Birmingham, but World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 prevented this one from being completed until 1950.

Role in airborne radar development


Oliphant's group at Birmingham included Sir John Randall and Harry Boot
Harry Boot
Henry Albert Howard "Harry" Boot was an English physicist who with Sir John Randall and James Sayers developed the cavity magnetron, which was one of the keys to the Allied victory in the Second World War.-Biography:...

 who developed the resonant-cavity magnetron
Cavity magnetron
The cavity magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field. The 'resonant' cavity magnetron variant of the earlier magnetron tube was invented by John Randall and Harry Boot in 1940 at the University of...

 in 1940, achieving the 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. See also Tizard Mission
Tizard Mission
The Tizard Mission officially the British Technical and Scientific Mission was a British delegation that visited the United States during the Second World War in order to obtain the industrial resources to exploit the military potential of the research and development work completed by the UK up...

.

Role in atomic bomb development


At Birmingham, in 1940, Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls
Rudolf Peierls
Sir Rudolf Ernst Peierls, CBE was a German-born British physicist. Rudolf Peierls had a major role in Britain's nuclear program, but he also had a role in many modern sciences...

 had calculated that a uranium-235
Uranium-235
- References :* .* DOE Fundamentals handbook: Nuclear Physics and Reactor theory , .* A piece of U-235 the size of a grain of rice can produce energy equal to that contained in three tons of coal or fourteen barrels of oil. -External links:* * * one of the earliest articles on U-235 for the...

 atomic bomb was feasible. Oliphant took their findings at once to higher authorities. A committee, code-named the MAUD Committee
MAUD Committee
The MAUD Committee was the beginning of the British atomic bomb project, before the United Kingdom joined forces with the United States in the Manhattan Project.-Frisch & Peierls:...

, sent the report to the American "Uranium Committee" around March 1941 but the Americans seemingly took no action.

Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 was at war and authorities there thought that the development of an atomic bomb was urgent, but on the other hand, there was much less urgency in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Oliphant was one of the people who pushed the American program into motion. Oliphant flew to the United States in late August 1941 in an unheated bomber, ostensibly to discuss the radar-development program, but he was actually assigned to find out why the United States was ignoring the findings of the Maud Committee. Oliphant said that "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
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, 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. Samuel K. Allison
Samuel King Allison
Samuel King Allison was an American physicist, most notable for his role in the Manhattan Project — where among other things he read the countdown for the detonation of the "Trinity" test — and his postwar work in the "scientists' movement".-Biography:Samuel K...

, a new member of the committee, was a talented experimental physicist and a protege of Arthur Compton
Arthur Compton
Arthur Holly Compton was an American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics for his discovery of the Compton effect. He served as Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis from 1945 to 1953.-Early years:...

 at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. Oliphant "came to a meeting", Allison recalls, "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 so in the dark.

Oliphant next visited his friends Ernest Lawrence, James Conant
James Conant
James Conant may refer to:* James Bryant Conant , American chemist and educational administrator* James F. Conant , American philosopher...

,and Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born, naturalized American physicist particularly known for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics...

 to explain the urgency. Lawrence then also contacted Conant and Arthur Compton
Arthur Compton
Arthur Holly Compton was an American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics for his discovery of the Compton effect. He served as Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis from 1945 to 1953.-Early years:...

. On 1 July 1941, Vannevar Bush
Vannevar Bush
Vannevar Bush was an American engineer and science administrator known for his work on analog computing, his political role in the development of the atomic bomb as a primary organizer of the Manhattan Project, the founding of Raytheon, and the idea of the memex, an adjustable microfilm viewer...

, the chairman of the National Defense Research Committee
National Defense Research Committee
The National Defense Research Committee was an organization created "to coordinate, supervise, and conduct scientific research on the problems underlying the development, production, and use of mechanisms and devices of warfare" in the United States from June 27, 1940 until June 28, 1941...

, created the larger and more powerful Office of Scientific Research and Development
Office of Scientific Research and Development
The Office of Scientific Research and Development was an agency of the United States federal government created to coordinate scientific research for military purposes during World War II. Arrangements were made for its creation during May 1941, and it was created formally by on June 28, 1941...

 (OSRD) which was empowered to engage in large engineering projects in addition to research. The Uranium Committee became the S-1 Project of the OSRD, and in December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Manhattan Engineering District was organised, and the project was dubbed the "Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

".

In November 1943, Oliphant moved to work on the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

 as part of the British delegation. The work on the bomb itself made him uneasy, and he preferred to concentrate on processes for enriching uranium-235
Uranium-235
- References :* .* DOE Fundamentals handbook: Nuclear Physics and Reactor theory , .* A piece of U-235 the size of a grain of rice can produce energy equal to that contained in three tons of coal or fourteen barrels of oil. -External links:* * * one of the earliest articles on U-235 for the...

 at the Radiation Laboratory
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory , is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory conducting unclassified scientific research. It is located on the grounds of the University of California, Berkeley, in the Berkeley Hills above the central campus...

 in Berkeley, Calif., with his friend Ernest Lawrence - a vital but less overtly-military part of the project. He was awarded the 1943 Hughes Medal
Hughes Medal
The Hughes Medal is awarded by the Royal Society of London "in recognition of an original discovery in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism or their applications". Named after David E. Hughes, the medal is awarded with a gift of £1000. The medal was first awarded in 1902 to...

.

Oliphant returned to England in April 1945, and after VE Day, he resumed his post as a professor of physics at the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

. It was here that he first heard of the explosions 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
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs is an international organization that brings together scholars and public figures to work toward reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats...

. ". . . 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 Congressional Medal of Freedom with Gold Palm, but the Australian government vetoed this honour.

Later years in Australia


In 1950, Oliphant returned to Australia as the first Director of the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering
Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering
The Research School of Physics and Engineering was established with the creation of the Australian National University in 1947. Located at the ANU's main campus in Canberra, the school is one of the four founding research schools in the ANU's Institute of Advanced Studies.As part of the Institute...

 at the new Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

, where he initiated the design and construction of the world's largest (500 megajoule) homopolar generator
Homopolar generator
A homopolar generator is a DC electrical generator comprising an electrically conductive disc rotating in a plane perpendicular to a uniform static magnetic field. A potential difference is created between the center of the disc and the rim, the electrical polarity depending on the direction of...

. This machine was used to power the large-scale railgun
Railgun
A railgun is an entirely electrical gun that accelerates a conductive projectile along a pair of metal rails using the same principles as the homopolar motor. Railguns use two sliding or rolling contacts that permit a large electric current to pass through the projectile. This current interacts...

 which was used as a scientific instrument. He established the Australian Academy of Science
Australian Academy of Science
The Australian Academy of Science was founded in 1954 by a group of distinguished Australians, including Australian Fellows of the Royal Society of London. The first president was Sir Mark Oliphant. The Academy is modelled after the Royal Society and operates under a Royal Charter; as such it is...

 in 1954, and he was its president until 1956. After retiring from the university in 1967, Oliphant was invited by the Premier of South Australia Don Dunstan
Don Dunstan
Donald Allan "Don" Dunstan, AC, QC was a South Australian politician. He entered politics as the Member for Norwood in 1953, became state Labor leader in 1967, and was Premier of South Australia between June 1967 and April 1968, and again between June 1970 and February 1979.The son of a business...

 to become the Governor of South Australia, 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
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

, Sir John Kerr in the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Oliphant was knighted in 1959 and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia
Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

 (AC) in 1977.

Late in life he watched his wife, Rosa, suffer before her death in 1987, and he became an advocate for voluntary euthanasia
Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

.

On 14 July 2000 Oliphant died in Canberra
Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

, at the age of 98.

Legacy


Places and things named in honour of Sir Mark 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
University of Adelaide
The University of Adelaide is a public university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third oldest university in Australia...

; the Mark Oliphant Building, Bedford Park
Bedford Park, South Australia
Bedford Park is a southern suburb of Adelaide in South Australia.The Hancock family established a homestead and farm at the foot of the Adelaide Hills in the mid 19th century. A family name from an earlier generation lent its name to the property of Bedford which was later changed to Bedford Park...

, and a new high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 located in the new area, Munno Para West, South Australia.

Oliphant's nephew, Pat Oliphant
Pat Oliphant
Patrick Bruce "Pat" Oliphant is the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world, described by the New York Times as "the most influential cartoonist now working"...

, is a Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning cartoonist.

Honours and awards





External links