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Optical Munitions Panel (1940 - 1945)

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Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

After the fall of France in 1940, Australia was faced with the necessity of finding a substitute for the imported optical glass needed for gun sights and other optical munitions. E.J. Hartung, Professor of Chemistry, experimented with various local sands to produce a glass of the required purity, and with blends of fire clays to make suitable pots. Within months satisfactory results had been achieved, and optical glass was being manufactured in Australia. The Department of Natural Philosophy (Physics) under Professor T.H. Laby was almost entirely devoted to experimental work, testing, and small-scale manufacture of optical munitions.


Between July and December 1940 the Panel met six times, and every two months thereafter until it was disbanded in November 1945. The Panel held a total of thirty-two meetings. The Chair of the Panel was T.H. Laby. He resigned in 1944 due to ill-health and Kerr Grant undertook the position of Chair until the Panel's end. The Secretary of the Panel was J.S. Rogers, who also wrote its official history. Laurence J. Hartnett was seconded from his role as Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's Ltd to be Director of Ordnance Production, Ministry of Munitions, and Chairman of the Optical Munitions Panel.

Related projects of the Optical Munitions Panel (or Scientific Instruments and Optical Panel as it became known) were the Aluminizing Process for producing mirrors for Optical Instruments, the production of graticules (small discs inscribed with measuring marks or scales for determining the size, distance, or position of objects viewed), and the development of methods of tropic-proofing optical instruments against fungi, a problem particularly acute in New Guinea.

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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Carolyn Rasmussen & Rachel Tropea
Created: 8 October 2001
Modified: 21 November 2001

Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre on AustehcWeb, October 2001
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: http://www.esrc.unimelb.edu.au/about/inquiries.html#comment
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 16 November 2009

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