June 15, 1995 /
Tim Sherratt, speech at the Australian Science Archives Project's 10th birthday celebration, 15 June 1995


On behalf of ASAP I’d like to welcome you all here to help celebrate our 10th birthday. This is a milestone that, at times, it seemed we might never reach, but here we are, stronger than ever. If you haven’t already guessed, this is a night of rampant self-congratulation, mixed with some myth-making, and perhaps also a little reflection – just how did we make it this far? I believe it had a lot to do with the ‘V’ word – vision. Read MoreEn-visioning ASAP

June 3, 1995 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘A world to win: The WWW experience of a small organisation with big dreams’, Asia-Pacific WWW Conference, 1995.


What am I doing here? I work for a non-profit organisation attached to the University of Melbourne. What can I say about “Doing Business on the WWW”? You all know universities have it easy, large IT departments, huge bandwidth connections – it’s a different world! Read MoreA world to win

December 23, 1994 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘Finding life in ancient corals’, Australasian Science, vol. 15, no. 4, Summer 1994, p. 64.


Dorothy Hill’s fascination for corals was sparked not by the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, but by a visit to the small Queensland town of Mundubbera, about 160 km inland. There, in the late 1920s, the young Australian geologist discovered a rich deposit of fossil corals from the Palaeozoic era. It was the beginning of a distinguished scientific career that established Dorothy Hill as a world authority on fossil corals, and one of Australia’s foremost geologists. Read MoreLife in ancient corals

September 23, 1994 /
Tim Sherratt and Anne-Marie Condé, ‘A war against disease’, Australasian Science, vol. 14, no. 3, Spring 1994, p. 64.


Amidst the carnage of Gallipoli, a young stretcher-bearer named Esmond Keogh struggled under enemy fire to drag his comrades to medical aid. Twenty-five years and another war later, Keogh was again far from home, serving with the Australian armed forces in the Middle East. However, Bill Keogh (as he was known by then) was neither a stretcher-bearer nor soldier, he was still saving lives, but now as a medical scientist. Read MoreA war against disease

March 23, 1994 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘From beetles to a Nobel Prize – Macfarlane Burnet’, Australasian Science, vol. 14, no. 1, Autumn 1994, p. 64.


Early this century in the Victorian country town of Terang, the young son of a local bank manager was often seen wandering alone through the countryside, on the look-out for beetles to add to his collection. One of his treasured possessions was a book on Australian insects, in which he carefully recorded his own observations and sketches. Today that book is preserved at the University of Melbourne along with a large collection of notes, papers and photographs that tell the story of one of Australia’s greatest scientists, Macfarlane Burnet. Read MoreFrom beetles to a Nobel Prize

December 1, 1993 /
Tim Sherratt, review of Scienceworks, in Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 9, no. 4, December 1993, pp. 387-388 .


As a suburban teenager, one of the highlights of my school holidays was a trip into ‘town’. This expedition into the wilds of central Melbourne always included a wander around the Science Museum, then housed snugly with the National Museum and the State Library behind the imposing columns of 328 Swanston Street.

Naturally I pressed all the buttons I could, making all the engines start and the models come to life. I played noughts and crosses against a ‘computer’ that regularly cheated. But most of all I just stood in front of the glass-fronted cases and marvelled at the collections — the rows and rows of swords, the wax apples, the radioactive sample with its chattering geiger counter. Between visits I embroidered complex daydreams where the deserted building was mine and all its treasures lay waiting. Read MoreScienceworks

November 15, 1993 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘“A physicist would be best out of it”: George Briggs at the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission’, Voices, Autumn 1993.


A physicist would be best out of it
A physicist would be best out of it

A tall, thin man in his early sixties was led into the recently remodelled Darlinghurst courtroom. Interest in the current proceedings was so great that extra seating had been provided to accommodate 200 members of the public, as well as 100 officials and 60 journalists. However, this session was to be heard in private, so the witness entered and was sworn before a strangely quiet and empty court.

‘What is your full name Doctor?’ asked W.J.V. Windeyer, the senior counsel, noted especially for his thorough but tedious manner.

George Henry Briggs‘ replied the witness.

‘And what is your doctorate?’

‘Physics.’ Read MoreA physicist would be best out of it

September 23, 1993 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘A model scientist: Edwin Hills’, Australasian Science, vol. 2, no. 1, Autumn 1993, p. 56.


A relief map is a three-dimensional model that shows the features of a particular region, like mountains and valleys, to scale. You’ve probably all seen one at some stage, perhaps you’ve even built one. However, I don’t suppose you’ve ever thought that a relief map might provide a starting point for scientific research. But thanks to one influential Australian geologist, that’s just what happened.

During the Second World War, military planners were concerned about the lack of detailed maps of Northern Australia. Acting on the advice of the professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne, Edwin Sherbon Hills, they decided to construct a relief model of the area. Once completed, data from the model was to be used to draw up the required maps. Read MoreA model scientist

June 23, 1993 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘A passion for physics: Joan Freeman’, Australasian Science, vol. 2, no. 2, Winter 1993, p. 64.


Funnily, much of what we call ‘big science’ is concerned with observing very small entities. Large, expensive machines are built to harness the unimaginable forces necessary to open the sub-atomic world to scrutiny.

In this fascinating, perhaps frightening, area of research, one Australian woman found an outlet for her curiosity, and made an important contribution to nuclear physics. Joan Freeman was born in Perth in 1918. When she was four, her family moved to Sydney where Joan was educated at the Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School and the University of Sydney. Throughout her childhood she was interested in finding out how things worked, often roping in her friends to help her perform simple scientific experiments. However, it was the news, in 1932, that Cockroft and Walton had succeeded in ‘splitting the atom’ that particularly inspired her to consider a career in scientific research. Read MoreA passion for physics

January 29, 1993 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘No standing back: Dame Jean Macnamara&rsquo, Australasian Science, vol. 13, no. 4, Summer 1993, p. 64.


‘Australian scientists are wimps. They spend all their time working away in the background, investigating some topic that nobody else in the world understands. They might make a contribution to our knowledge of the world, but they don’t really make things happen, do they?’

Perhaps we should start a list of common myths about Australian science – the paragraph above could go right at the top, followed by: ‘Australian scientists are all more than five foot tall, and of course they never, ever wear funny hats’. Jean Macnamara, who was rather short and certainly did have a collection of odd-looking hats, was one Australian scientist who was determined to be of use to society and to make things happen, even though this sometimes brought her into conflict with her scientific colleagues. Read MoreNo standing back