Date Range: 3/7/1913 - 7/5/2009
Robert Dickson Hill grew up in Ballarat, Victoria. During the 1930s, Robert Hill attended Secondary Teachers College in Melbourne, and completed a first class honours degree, and a Masters degree in x-ray spectroscopy, both at Melbourne University. Hill's father, R. W. Hill, died in 1935, and at that time Robert's mother, May Hill, moved the family to Carlton, Melbourne.
Robert Hill had an extensive career in teaching and pure research, in particular on defence matters. In 1936 he was awarded the 1851 Exhibition Scholarship to work at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University. At the Cavendish Laboratory, Hill worked with Maurice Goldhaber, whom he followed to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1938. During World War Two, Hill worked in Australia and England, contributing to developments in radar systems, among other activities. In Australia, he worked at the CSIRO's Radiophysics Laboratory in 1943, and contributed to the development of optical munitions. Between 1940 and 1947, Robert Hill worked as a lecturer in physics, then called natural philosophy, at Melbourne University, where he received a Doctor of Science in 1947 for his published research.
Robert and Judy Hill married in 1942. In 1947, the Hill family, including son Bobby, left for the United States. Robert Hill's departure created a significant gap in the emerging discipline of nuclear physics at Melbourne University. Following sabbatical leave in 1953-1954 at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the focus of Robert Hillís research turned to K particles and Tau and Pi mesons in high energy physics. In around 1955, Robert Hill became Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In 1965, he left Illinois for Santa Barbara, California, working on anti-ballistic missile systems for the General Research Corporation, a private company on contract to the US Defence Department. Later he became a consultant on anti-ballistic missile systems with the Office of Naval Research. From 1990 until his retirement in 2000, Robert Hill was based at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Robert Hill was a world authority on lightning.
Robert Hill died in Santa Barbara, California. The cause of death is thought to have been heart failure.
Robert Hill maintained a wide circle of correspondents in the field of physics throughout his life. He also kept in close contact with his family in Australia, including his mother, May Hill, his niece, Janet Roberts Billett, and his sister, Lorna Roberts.
The papers of Robert Hill's professorship in physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, United States, where he worked during the period 1947-1965, are held by the University of Illinois Archives.
Janet Roberts Billett, historian, is Robert Hill's niece, daughter of Robert Hill's sister, Lorna Roberts.
Jan Billett specialises in oral history with a focus on the military, especially Australian and naval histories of World War Two. Jan Billett graduated with a Diploma of Education in 1983, and a Master of Arts in 2008, both from the University of Melbourne. Her MA thesis on the history of the veterans who served through the Dominion Yachtsman Scheme in World War Two was entitled '"The Yachties": Australian Volunteers in the Royal Navy 1941-1945'.
Jan Billett's publications include "Onward and Upwards", a history of the Norlane High School 1958-1988, published by the Norlane High School in 2000, and '"Memories of War": Members of the Naval and Military Club recall World War II', fifty interviews by Janet Roberts Billett, published by the Naval and Military Club, 2004.