From physics to ornithology: the latest edition of Historical Records of Australian Science

August 30, 2021
Composite image of: pinky-yellow rocks; man working on machine; red and green parrots; hand-drawn map of coastline; Sally Smith; Jim Lance
The latest edition of Historical Records of Australian Science contains a wide range of fascinating articles.

The latest edition of Historical records of Australian Science is full of fascinating content, with historical articles, a review of scholarship in the field of the history of archaeology, biographical memoirs, and critical reviews of seven books on Australian history of science themes.

The life and work of Sir Mark Oliphant continues to engage Australian scholars, with Brett Gooden writing about the contributions to Oliphant’s work of his relative, John Gooden, a young Australian physicist who completed his PhD with Oliphant in Birmingham. Gooden remained with Oliphant as project leader for the development of the proton synchrotron, but his work was cut short by his early death in 1950.

The journal goes from physics to ornithology: the role of Alec Chisholm in the rediscovery of the Paradise Parrot in 1921 and his subsequent publicising of its plight is described by Russell McGregor in this edition’s open access article. Journalist Paul Daley wrote an associated piece about the Paradise Parrot in The Guardian. And Terry Kass has raised important issues concerning Robert Hamilton Mathews, whose sometimes unethical behaviour as a property surveyor in the nineteenth century puts into question the veracity of his subsequent ethnographic work.

Hilary Howes, who was guest editor for the articles published in the previous two issues on the history of archaeology in Australia, has taken a broad view to describe aspects of the historiography of Australian archaeology. This is the third in our series of reviews of particular fields, methods or issues in Australian history of science scholarship.

Robert Hamilton Mathews’ … sometimes unethical behaviour as a property surveyor in the nineteenth century puts into question the veracity of his subsequent ethnographic work.

Fellows of the Academy, Sally Smith and Jim Lance, are the subjects of biographical memoirs. Sally Smith obtained a tenurable position after many years of short-term contracts at the University of Adelaide, where she showed how mycorrhizal contact with fungi can help plants to grow in soils that are low in nutrients, especially phosphorus. Jim Lance was the first doctoral student of Peter Bishop, whose biographical memoir was published in 2018. Continuing the strong tradition of neurology in Australia, Lance was an expert in motor control—reflexes and movement in healthy subjects and movement disorders in patients—and in the mechanisms and management of headache, in particular migraine.

The book reviews in this issue show again the depth of Australian scholarship and the broad interest that exists among the general public in aspects of Australian science. They also highlight the skill that the journal’s book review editor, Dr Peter Hobbins, has exercised in choosing expert reviewers and guiding their work for the past seven years, and on this valedictory note the Academy says ‘farewell and thank you’ to Peter as he moves to a new position at the Australian Maritime Museum. His successor is Dr Martin Bush of the University of Melbourne.

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science

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