Bragg, Mawson and Brown, and the Early Uranium Discoveries in South Australia

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Abstract:

The discovery of uranium at Radium Hill in the Olary region in 1906 excited much public interest in South Australia as well as the attention of three of its most prominent scientists: W.H. Bragg, D. Mawson and H.Y.L. Brown. At the same time, radioactivity was recognised in the Moonta mines. The reaction of each was different with Bragg being revealed as more of a pure (rather than applied) scientist who was held in the highest public esteem, whilst Mawson quickly became the entrepreneur. Brown shows himself as the trustworthy, yet cautious, Government advisor. As the youngest of the three, Mawson continued his pioneering interest for the rest of his life. With the discovery of uranium at Mount Painter in 1910, his entrepreneurial acumen was enhanced, supported not only by intensive geological investigations, but also by skills in accessing the resource, sourcing development capital and envisaging mining development. His rising status as a heroic Antarctic explorer was presumably an advantage. Reduced Government and public interest in the Mount Painter discovery initially is reflected by delayed involvement from Brown, who was then approaching retirement. In 1909, Bragg left South Australia to pursue his academic career and further scientific research on radioactivity and X rays in the United Kingdom. This led to the award of the Nobel Prize in 1915 (jointly with his son), yet no ongoing involvement in South Australian uranium.

Keywords: DOUGLAS MAWSON; HENRY YORKE LYELL BROWN; MOUNT PAINTER; RADIUM HILL; SOUTH AUSTRALIA; URANIUM; WILLIAM HENRY BRAGG

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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  • In 2004, the South Australian Museum and the Royal Society of South Australia became partners in Southern Scientific Press. This led to the amalgamation of their two professional journals. The Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia now incorporates the Records of the South Australian Museum.
    Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia deals with natural history relating to South Australia
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