Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Pioneer of Science Journalism

Peter Pockley

Peter Pockley (pointing upwards) during preparations at CSIRO's Parkes radio­telescope for the “Our World” global telecast in 1967 – the first global television broadcast. Source: CSIRO

By Guy Nolch

Guy Nolch pays tribute to long-time columnist Peter Pockley, who was Australia's longest-serving science journalist.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I was merely a trainee editor with the predecessor of Australasian Science, the ANZAAS journal Search, when I first encountered Dr Peter Pockley. It was the early 1990s and he was trying to file his story from Sydney using new and revolutionary technology: the modem.

Email wasn’t available to the public back then, and he’d previously faxed his copy for the receptionist to type. The fabulous modem would save this duplication of keystrokes as the deadline approached.

But our modems were talking different languages. They wouldn’t connect, and I had a frustrated Peter fretting over the cost of the STD calls he was making while we tried to solve the technical problem. His voice was deep and authoritative, and by comparison I felt like I was back at school fronting the headmaster. I was intimidated!

Little did I realise that I’d just found a mentor who would guide me over the next two decades.

I can understand why some who crossed swords with Peter have described him as “prickly”, but when I first met him at an ANZAAS Congress I found him genuinely warm and encouraging.

Much of the demeanour that others may have bristled at stemmed from the type of science writing Peter had come to specialise in, and the gravitas in his voice.

For while Peter was a pioneer of science journalism in Australia, being the first scientist to work full-time...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.