Historical Records of Australian Science Historical Records of Australian Science Society
The history of science, pure and applied, in Australia, New Zealand and the southwest Pacific

Riding the Waves: Professor T. H. Laby as Imperial Scientist and Radio Visionary

Jennifer Bowen
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School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, Vic., Australia. Email: bowen@student.unimelb.edu.au

Historical Records of Australian Science 28(2) 91-98 https://doi.org/10.1071/HR17003
Published: 31 August 2017


Thomas Laby, Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Melbourne 1915–1942, was an outspoken proponent of science broadcasting during the years when broadcast radio was developing in Australia. While earlier biographical studies have paid some attention to Laby’s role in public affairs, there has been no discussion of his sustained advocacy for radio as a means of public education. This article shows how his position was supported by, and in turn enriched, his imperial politics as well as his commitment to scientific research; it draws on a range of archival materials from public hearings, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and Australian universities. It shows Laby’s remarkable grasp of a medium in its formative years, as well as his belief in the need for scientists to participate in social debate.

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