AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXIX, No. 2, Fall 1997


The CSIRO Radiophysics Archives Project 1994-1997

by J.A. Davies

Important progress has been made in saving records of the ground-breaking work on radio astronomy and telescope design done by CSIRO in Sydney, Australia. CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is Australia's major non-university research organization. The Division of Radiophysics was established under the Official Secrets Act in 1939 to conduct radar research. From 1988, its activities have focused on the telecommunications industry, and in 1996 the Division became part of CSIRO Telecommunications and Industrial Physics.

From 1975 to 1992, several partly successful attempts were made to ensure that the Division's historical records were safely housed. While the technical drawings and photographs are only now being considered, funding has been provided over the last three years for a qualified Archivist to assess paper files. These consist of official files and files created by individual scientists. The major topics covered include solar and cosmic radio astronomy, including early identification of radio sources and the 1953 400 Mc/s survey at Dover Heights, the 1954-1955 600 Mc/s survey at Potts Hill, and surveys of our own Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds. Other important records cover the design and construction of the Parkes 64-meter telescope, which was opened in 1962 and used as a guide for the design of NASA's 210-foot Deep Space Network antennas; ongoing research and development in antenna engineering (E.G. Bowen, H.C. Minnett, D.E. Yabsley and others). Also documented is the design and construction of the Anglo Australian Telescope, to which Bowen and Minnett brought substantial experience from the Parkes Telescope project, and the design and construction of the Australia Telescope (B.J. Robinson, D.E. Yabsley and others). Further information is preserved in the correspondence files of J.G. Bolton, Founding Director of the Parkes Observatory, E.G. Bowen, Division Chief 1946-1971, J.P. Wild, Division Chief 1971-1978, and J.L. Pawsey, Assistant Chief 1946-1962. Other topics covered include aircraft navigation and landing aids.

We have added over 90 linear meters to our holdings at Australian Archives. The work has been time-consuming, involving many rounds of consultation with some of the creators of the files, and including times when a tape recorder should have been at hand. Our series descriptions are available on the Australian Archives Web page, None of this could have been achieved without the commitment of management, and the support of our Records Manager, the creators of records, our consultants at Australian Archives and CSIRO Archives, and the contractors.

The "Archives Room" is full again with new donations from scientists who are learning to trust the process, and records which require assessment by someone who knows the Division and its work. Meanwhile our Records Manager is establishing an electronic records documentation system which should ensure that files created in the future will be easily identified for long-or short-term retention. For further information contact Jenny Davies, Library, CSIRO Telecommunications and Industrial Physics, Marsfield, PO Box 76, Epping NSW 2121, Australia; phone (02) 9372 4230; fax (02) 9372 4540; e-mail

Click here to see a photo of a scientist reviewing his files in the storeroom of the Division of Radiosphysics, CSIRO, Sydney, Australia.

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