Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A History Lesson for Smart Kids

Harry Messel was the inspiration for a talk Peter Bowditch gave at the 2015 Young Scientist Awards organised by the Science Teachers’ Association of NSW.

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

I would like to start by congratulating all finalists for the awards on behalf of Australian Skeptics Inc. You might wonder what the connection is between skepticism and science, but they both have the same objective – it’s to ask questions and find the answers. Science is skepticism put into practice.

One of my greatest disappointments during 2015 was that I was unable to attend the memorial service for Professor Harry Messel, head of the Physics Department at the University of Sydney for many years. I actually had one of the rare tickets for a seat inside the Great Hall, which doubled the disappointment that I couldn’t get to the function. Professor Messel was my ultimate boss when I had my first job as computer programmer, working in the Physics Department, and while I have occasionally been accused of being around since the Stone Age I can assure you that the computers we had there were the very latest ones and were made of bronze.

Professor Messel is relevant for two reasons to do with tonight.

One of the things he noticed shortly after arrival in Australia from Canada was that there appeared to be no girls’ high school in Sydney (or maybe even in the state) that taught physics. Apparently it was quite common then to hold the nonsensical opinion that girls are incapable of understanding complicated science.

Don’t think, however, that the...

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