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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War

VI After The Joint Project

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Between The World Wars (continued)

With the passing of the economic depression of the early thirties and with a growing concern about national defence, the Lyons Government came under pressure to provide scientific support for secondary industry in the same way that primary industry was assisted by the CSIR. That body was asked to report on actions that might be taken; three areas of greatest need were identified.[15] The first basic requirement was to provide industry with those standards of measurement necessary for mass production; secondly, surveys of availability of strategic raw materials such as chromium, nickel, tungsten, manganese, tin, aluminium, etc. and investigations of methods of treatment of ores were needed. Thirdly, and more specifically, the new aircraft industry, and probably a developing automotive industry required scientific support.

These main recommendations of the CSIR were accepted and funds were provided for the creation in 1938, in accordance with the original CSIR mandate, of research Divisions of National Standards, Industrial Chemistry and Aeronautics. The latter organisation was established as the result of a report to the Prime Minister by H. E. Wimperis,[16] a recently retired Director of Scientific Research of the British Air Ministry. Some debate arose as to the correct attachment of a unit obviously directed towards defence needs. With the need to establish a strong research base, it was considered more appropriate to attach the Division of Aeronautics to the CSIR, rather than to the Defence Department, whose preoccupations were of a more pragmatic nature.

The Wimperis Report also considered other matters. The desirability of providing a research laboratory with trained personnel was stressed and hence a Chair of Aeronautical Engineering was created in the University of Sydney -(a nice balance with the aircraft industry and research establishment in Melbourne). Other areas of potential defence concern -specifically on the subject of radio research -were discreetly touched upon and were developed officially in due course into the formation of another CSIR Division -that of Radiophysics. The significant experiments being conducted in England into the detection of aircraft using radio transmissions came to the notice of the Australian High Commissioner and his representation led to Dr D. F. Martyn of the Radio Research Board being sent to learn details of the secret process, later given the term radar. The knowledge he gained provided some direction to the investigations to be instituted in the new CSIR Division.

As international tension rose with disquiet about the intentions of Germany and Japan, the British Government became anxious that Australia extend its aircraft manufacturing facilities to include a type suitable for regional defence in the South East Asian area. The Bristol Beaufort torpedo-bomber was chosen, as the result of an Air Mission to Australia, and an Aircraft Construction Branch was set up by the
Government within its Department of Supply and Development. Concern about uninterrupted supply of the British engines led to substitution of the American Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engine. Engine production, with its attendant technologies, thus became a significant defence undertaking, developed from a firm foundation established by far-sighted industrialists.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Aircraft Construction Branch; Australia. Department of Munitions; CSIRO; CSIRO Division of Aeronautics; CSIRO Division of Radio Physics

People in Bright Sparcs - Martyn, D. F.; Wimperis, H. E.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 926 - 927, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher