Mark Oliphant

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mark Oliphant

Sir Marcus "Mark" Laurence Elwin Oliphant (born October 8, 1901 in Adelaide , † July 14, 2000 in Canberra ) was an Australian physicist and politician.

Live and act

In 1919 he began studying medicine at the University of Adelaide , but a professor piqued his interest in physics, which was undergoing upheaval in many areas at the time. After Oliphant heard a speech by Ernest Rutherford in 1925 , his decision to become his assistant was made. This wish came true in 1927 when he joined the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge . In 1929 he earned his doctorate with a thesis on nuclear physics. In Cambridge in 1934 he laid the theoretical foundations for the discovery of ( 3 He) by Alvarez in 1939. He also succeeded in 1934, with Rutherford and Paul Harteck , in the artificial generation of tritium , which had been predicted in 1920 by Walter Russell . In the same article they reported on the first targeted nuclear fusion reaction.

In 1937, Oliphant became Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham . His most famous student at this time was Ernest William Titterton and colleagues in Birmingham were Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch . He played an important role in the British contribution to the Manhattan Project (see MAUD Commission ) - on a US trip in 1939 he was able to convince the very influential Ernest Orlando Lawrence to get involved - and also in the development of the radar . In 1937 he was commissioned to survey the British coastal defense. He recognized the need to shift to shorter radar wavelengths than the then usual 170 cm and made - in 1939 sponsored by the British Admiralty - (for the development of such equipment at the University of Birmingham development of the magnetron by John Turton Randall and Harry Boot in his institute in Birmingham). He worked on the transport of electricity in gases , surface chemistry, and solar energy . In 1943 he received the Hughes Medal .

After the Second World War, he built the first proton synchrotron in Europe , albeit with insufficient resources and only dependent on his students for his staff. July 1953 the machine reached just under 1 GeV, but was already overtaken by Cosmotron (Brookhaven National Laboratory) and Bevatron (Berkeley) at this time .

In 1950 he returned to Australia and was initially the founder and first director of the Physics Research Institute at the University of Canberra ; he held this post until 1963. He then became President of the Australian Academy of Science and in 1971 Governor of South Australia (until 1976).

In Australia, from around 1950, he built the world's largest unipolar machine , which was used for an accelerator.

After the atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, he became a staunch pacifist and vowed never to have anything to do with military research again. He was a founding member of the Pugwash movement and co-founded the Human Rights Council of Australia with James Dunn .

In 1959 he was knighted as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire . He was founding president of the Australian Academy of Sciences in 1954 and remained its president until 1956. In 1977 he became Companion in the Order of Australia (AC). Since 1937 he was a Fellow of the Royal Society . The Oliphant Islands are named after him .


  • JH Carver, RW Crompton, DG Ellyard, LU Hibbard, EK Inall: Marcus Laurence Elwin Oliphant 1901-2000 . In: Historical Records of Australian Science . Volume 14, Number 3, 2003, pp. 337-364 ( online ).
  • Janet Mercury: Sir Mark Oliphant . Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-77628-7 .
  • Joseph Rotblat : Obituary: Mark Oliphant (1901-2000). In: Nature . Volume 407, 2000, p. 468, doi: 10.1038 / 35035202 .

Web links

  • JH Carver, RW Crompton, DG Ellyard, LU Hibbard, EK Inall: Marcus Laurence Elwin Oliphant. Biographical Memoir . In: Historical Records of Australian Science . tape 14 , no. 3 , 2003 (English, ).
  • Entry for Oliphant, Sir, Marcus Laurence Elwin (1901-2000) in the Archives of the Royal Society , London
  • Short biography. In: Australian Science Archives Project. June 26, 1996(English).;

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rutherford, Oliphant, Paul Harteck: Transmutation effects observed with heavy hydrogen, Proc. Roy. Soc. A, Vol. 144, 1934, pp. 692-703, and under the same title, Nature, Vol. 133, 1934, p. 413
  2. ^ The discovery of DD fusion , EuroFusion, 2010
  3. Lawrence also gave him complete plans for a cyclotron, which could not be built in Birmingham because of the war
  4. A 10 GeV synchrotron that he later planned in Australia (using a unipolar machine) did not get beyond the planning phase.
  5. ^ Wilson Sessler: Engines of Discovery , World Scientific 2007, p. 56, biography
  6. Clinton Fernandes: James Dunn - CV , Australia-East Timor Association, January 31, 2020 , accessed February 1, 2020.