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In 1920 JPVM was appointed to the Chair of Electrical Engineering at Sydney University & until 1946 remained the first & only professor of Electrical Engineering in an Australian University. In the Engineering Year Book of 1926 it was noted by students that it was the beginning of Third Year that they met JPVM & his subject of Electrical Engineering & his untiring energy is what really instilled in our minds the true idea of efficient work. His lectures are more effective than any others we get, due probably to his clear & concise idea of the usual pitfalls for young students of electricity & the saving grace of first principles as opposed to details. To him alone, we owe whatever slight conception we have of the importance of filthy lucre & “corsts” in engineering undertakings.

In 1926 the Council for Scientific Research- CSIR- was formed by Stanley Bruce the Australian Prime Minister & public submissions were called to consider which areas of research should be followed. JPVM made two submissions on the same day at the hearings in Melbourne, the first dealing with the establishment of an Australian Radio Research Board and then the establishment of a National Standards Laboratory. All the other submissions which were made were for primary industry programmes. The proposal to form the Australian RRB was adopted at this time to be funded by CSIR, the Department of Defence & the PMG & to work on similar lines to the British RRB under Robert Watson Watt. In 1926 many of the techniques of radio propagation were still unknown & the development of long distant communication & broadcasting were still empirical, however in England & America a more fundamental scientific approach was evolving with spectacular results. At this time in Australia problems limiting full use of the medium were assuming importance in Australia. As Chairman of the newly formed RRB JPVM travelled overseas to America where he attended an URSI-International Union of Radio Science conference in Washington & then to Britain & the continent obtaining relevant information on Radio Research & also Standards Laboratories even though that proposal was not to be taken up by CSIR until ten years later. In London JPVM arranged a selection panel consisting of Rutherford, Appleton & Tizard to recommend three staff to be appointed for three year terms to come out to Sydney & Melbourne Universities to follow on from research programmes initiated in England on atmospherics & the ionosphere. Despite the economic stringencies of the Depression the work of the Board in both areas achieved worldwide recognition by 1935 & the valuable contributions made were provided freely. Of particular note was the work of Dr. A L Green who came out from England following work with Appleton on the existence of the E & F regions of the upper atmosphere & carried out a polarizing experiment using the 2BL transmitter in Sydney with his own receiving equipment at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney. In 1930 Green confirmed the prediction of Appleton & J A Ratcliffe that the polarization of the downcoming waves in the southern hemisphere would be right handed when the downcoming waves travelled in the opposite direction to the earth’s field. The work on atmospherics using recorders improved on the designs from <Watson Watt> provided useful information in Victoria, NSW & Queensland on broadcasting conditions encountered but the solution found was based on the quarter wavelength transmitter. In 1935 JPVM delivered an address at the University of Queensland which gave a very thorough summary of the results of the RRB dealing with the Ionosphere & its Influence upon the propagation of radio waves & considered the effects explained by the Magneto-Ionic Theory. One of the first research workers of the RRB was J L Pawsey who undertook a Masters degree programme working with George Munro in Melbourne on atmospherics & after completing a PhD in Cambridge under J A Ratcliffe & working with EMI in England returned to Australia at the start of the war to work in Radiophysics on radar & others such as D F Martyn were similarly drawn in to form the nucleus of this vital work. In 1930 Sydney University commenced a course on Electrical Communications whose participants contributed to a growing electronics industry in Sydney.

In 1931 JPVM delivered a lecture to celebrate the life & work of Michael Faraday and the applications of his discovery of electro-magnetic induction. Faraday was one of the greatest experimental scientists working both in the fields of physics & chemistry. In his original notes Faraday describes his “ experiments upon the production of electricity from magnetism”. These experiments showed that electrical currents were induced in electrically conducting circuits when they were moved relatively to magnetic fields. One of the immediate results of this discovery was the recognition of an effective means of utilising the principle of transformation of energy from mechanical to electrical form. The converse transformation of energy from electrical to mechanical form had been demonstrated by Oersted & Ampere in 1820 & in 1821. Faraday had performed an experiment which showed how this principle could be applied to the production of the electric motor. By accepting Faraday’s principles Maxwell, Kelvin & Hertz extended & developed scientific knowledge. Also it should be mentioned that in 1839 French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the principle of the photovoltaic effect involving the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy. At age 19 experimenting in his father’s Antoine Becquerel laboratory he created the world’s first photovoltaic cell. In this experiment silver chloride was placed in an acidic solution & illuminated while connected to platinum electrodes, generating voltage & current. The pioneers of science prior to this time had largely been involved with advances in astronomy which JPVM’s father, Hans Frandsen Madsen had shown an interest in when he delivered a paper to the Royal Society of NSW in 1886 on the hand polishing & silvering of 18 inch glass specula.

In 1937, in no small measure due to the concern of the expansion of Japan in Korea & China, a report of a Secondary Industries Testing Committee of which JPVM was a member led to the setting up of a National Standards Laboratory within CSIR consisting of sections of Metrology, Physics & Electrotechnology. Sydney University agreed to the Laboratory being located in its grounds with JPVM the Chairman of the overseeing Board. The information considered was found by JPVM to be substantially the same as he had obtained ten years before including the facility used by Japan. Construction of the Laboratory did not commence until the latter part of 1939 & followed plans supplied by the National Physical Laboratory NPL Teddington. In 1928 in a paper to the Institution of Engineers JPVM referred to the practical difficulties of deriving from the absolute units of centimetre, gramme & second units such as temperature, Candle-power & electrical units. At this time the wavelength of the red cadmium line was under investigation as a universal reference for length. The expensive auxiliary equipment needed to make comparisons was seen as being far more involved than just procuring standards or their copies. The use of slip gauges or block gauges was to become of great importance to NSL in 1939 when these gauges could not be obtained from England or America & had to be made by NSL. In July 1937 Rutherford wrote to JPVM in part advising that: “My friend Wimperis is, I believe, visiting New Zealand and Australia shortly in connection with the Air Ministry. I hope you will have an opportunity of meeting him. He is a thoroughly sound fellow and a good friend of mine. We have played many a game of golf together”. Harry Wimperis was closely involved with Henry Tizard in 1934 in initiating the British RDF (radar) effort as a means to defeat the expected bomber raids from Germany. Wimperis had been invited by the Australian Government to advise on setting up an Aeronautical industry in Australia as a defence measure & one result was that JPVM arranged for Sydney University to set up a chair in Aeronautical Engineering. In a private conversation with JPVM in Melbourne during this visit Wimperis tacitly acknowledged that Britain was working on a radio based method of detecting aircraft.

JPVM lecture on Australian Standards in 1928 to Institution of Engineers

eie-history/1920-1938.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/08 12:32 by superuser
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