Obituary: George Dracoulis

George Dennis Dracoulis FAA was born 9 December 1944 in Melbourne. He pursued undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Melbourne, capping his studies with a PhD in nuclear physics.  

Following his graduation in 1970, Dracoulis spent three years in England as a post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. In 1973, he returned to Australia to take up a position in the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University (ANU), where he spent the remainder of his career.

Dracoulis was heavily involved in the development of the department’s tandem heavy-ion accelerator, contributing to the university’s establishment as a leading nuclear physics research facility. Dracoulis also contributed his skills and insights overseas, travelling to institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom as a visiting researcher. In 1991 he was appointed to a chair in physics at ANU; the following year, he progressed to the Head of the Department of Nuclear Physics, a role he held until retirement in 2009, after which he was appointed Professor Emeritus. Dracoulis remained active in research and public education following his retirement, receiving the 2011 Australian National University Media Award (with Aidan Byrne) for his response to the Japan tsunami crisis.

A tireless and exacting researcher, Dracoulis’s interests lay in the structure of nuclear states. He made significant contributions to the field, authoring and co-authoring nearly 300 papers, and presenting at national and international conferences. He also participated in numerous councils and committees in Australia and overseas, and was chosen as a member of the Prime Minister’s Select Task Force on Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy in 2006.

Dracoulis was honoured with numerous awards over his career, including the Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal, the Centenary Medal, the Walter Boas Medal and the Australian Nuclear Association Annual Award.

In addition to being elected as a Fellow of the Academy, Dracoulis was also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He was an active member of the Academy, serving on the National Replacement Reactor Project, as well as sectional and awards committees and the House Standing Committee. He finished a term as chair of the Thomas Ranken Lyle Awards Committee in 2013.  

Dracoulis passed away on 19 June 2014 following a diagnosis of kidney cancer earlier in the year. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, children Angelo, Nicola and Julia, and two grandchildren.

© 2018 Australian Academy of Science

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