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Sir Marcus Oliphant
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Scientist, Born 1901, Adelaide SA, Died 2000

Sir Marcus Oliphant is a founding father of the Australian National University in Canberra and a former Governor of South Australia. He won the Exhibition Prize at Adelaide University in 1927 and was accepted by Cambridge University. While there, he was part of a team whose task was to split the atom.

Oliphant was born in the hills outside Adelaide in 1901 into a middle class family. His formative years were shaped by a devotion to Christianity and belief in the importance of education, largely attributable to the influence of his mother, a schoolteacher.

Although there was no direct scientific influence on his childhood, the young Mark always displayed an interest in scientific experimentation. 'I was always fooling about in the shed at the back of the garden,' he recalls,' with bits of wire and bits of wood, making what my brothers called my "raggedy, baggedy engines".'

During World War Two, Oliphant developed the centimetre wave radar. His 'secret weapon of radar' became a decisive factor in winning the Battle of Britain. Working in England, he also became deeply involved in the development of the atomic bomb. In 1942 he flew to America and helped scientists build the terrifying new weapon. After the bomb was used against civilians in Hiroshima, Oliphant vowed never to have anything further to do with nuclear power for military means. A remarkable man, he went on to devote his considerable scientific talent and energies to finding peaceful uses for atomic power.



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