Sir Marcus “Mark” Laurence Elwin Oliphant was an Australian physicist who was very important to the development of nuclear weapons. He is thought to have found the nuclei of helium-3 (called “helions”) and tritium (called “tritons”), and he helped with the first experimental demonstration of nuclear fusion, which led to the creation of nuclear weapons. After he finished school at the University of Adelaide, his first goal was to become a doctor. But his physics professor told him to change his focus to physics, so he did. He did very well in the class and went on to become an expert in high-energy physics at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, where he became known for his work on subatomic particles. During World War II, he worked in the United States on the Manhattan Project, which led to the first atomic bombs being designed and built. He was a very smart scientist, but he was also a very good person. He was very against using atomic bombs for war, and he was horrified when they were dropped on Japan. In the end, he helped start the Pugwash Movement, which is a group of scientists who are against nuclear weapons, and he stopped doing any kind of military research.
Early years and childhood
Harold George “Baron” Oliphant and Beatrice Edith Fanny Oliphant had Mark Oliphant on October 8, 1901, in Kent Town, Adelaide, Australia. His mother was an artist, and his father worked as a civil servant for the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department and taught Economics part-time. He was the oldest of four brothers.
He was a kind boy who stopped eating meat after seeing pigs being killed. He was deaf in one ear and had to wear glasses because he was nearsighted.
In 1919, he finished high school at Adelaide High School and went to the University of Adelaide to study. At first, he wanted to be a doctor, but his physics professor, Kerr Grant, offered him a position as a cadet in the Physics Department, which Oliphant accepted.
In 1921, he got his B.Sc., which stands for Bachelor of Science. Then he got his honors degree and worked with Roy Burdon on two papers about the properties of mercury that were published in 1927.
Mark Oliphant’s Career
Sir Ernest Rutherford, a physicist from New Zealand, gave a speech in 1925 that gave Oliphant a lot of ideas. He wanted to work with this great scientist, so he applied for a job at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and was accepted in 1927.
At the lab, he worked with John Cockcroft, Ernest Walton, James Chadwick, and Patrick Blackett, all of whom were very smart scientists. He was also close with Rutherford, who was his teacher, and they worked on heavy hydrogen reactions together.
The Cavendish laboratory did a lot of good work in the 1930s. Oliphant built a particle accelerator that could send protons flying with as much energy as 600,000 electronvolts. Several important papers were also written by him.
Oliphant found the nuclei of helium-3 (helions) and tritium with the help of Rutherford and others (tritons). Soon, he was the first person to do an experiment to show that nuclear fusion works, which led to the creation of the hydrogen bomb.
In 1937, Oliphant was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and given the Poynting Chair of Physics at Birmingham University. The next year, he worked on making the radar better. He led his team to create the cavity magnetron, which is used in advanced microwave radar.
In 1943, he went to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project. This was at the height of World War II. Together, people worked on the project to make the first atomic bombs. He was a good person at heart, so he didn’t think the bombs would be used to hurt people. He was shocked when Japan was bombed in 1945.
After the bombing, he became a strong opponent of nuclear weapons and eventually joined the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international group that works to make war less likely.
After the war, he went back to Australia. The Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, asked him to be a technical advisor for the Australian delegation to the newly formed United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNITEC). In 1946, he agreed to take this job.
In 1950, he became the first Director of the Australian National University’s Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering. He set up the university’s Department of Particle Physics and ran it himself. He also made other departments, such as the Department of Nuclear Physics and the Department of Theoretical Physics.
In 1954, he and a few other well-known Australians started the Australian Academy of Science. He was the first president of this group. It was started with the goal of doing many things to promote science and science education.
The 22 National Committees for Science are also in charge by the Academy.
In the 1960s, he stopped being a teacher, and from 1971 to 1976, he was the governor of South Australia.
Works of note
In 1932, Mark Oliphant did the first fusion of hydrogen isotopes in a lab. As part of the Manhattan Project, he also took part in more research on nuclear fusion for military purposes. This led to the design and construction of the first atomic bombs.
He was an important part of making radar work. He led a group of scientists that included John Randall and Harry Boot in making the cavity magnetron, a radical new design that led to the creation of microwave radar.
Awards & Achievements
In 1943, Mark Oliphant was given the Hughes Medal “for his outstanding work in nuclear physics and mastery of ways to make and use high potentials.”
Mark Oliphant was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1959.
In 1977, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) “for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in the field of public service and in service to the crown.”
Personal History and Legacies
Mark Oliphant married Rosa Louise Wilbraham in 1925. He had known her since they were both teenagers. They had one biological son who died when he was young, and they also took in two other kids.
He had a long life and died on July 14, 2000, when he was 98 years old.
Estimated Net worth
Mark Oliphant’s estimated net worth is $10 million. His main sources of income are as a governor, nuclear scientist, and physicist. We don’t have enough evidence about Mark Oliphant’s cars or his way of life.