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The Shine Dome -

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The Shine Dome (21/08/2008)

Topics: Archaeology & History

CommentsReporter: Dr Robyn Williams


Narration: Canberra - Home to the leaders of the country and some unique pieces of architecture.

Narration: Back in the late 1950's & early 1960's Canberra was growing fast and in a sheep paddock
just outside the centre of town a strange dome which looked rather like a space ship was being

Some doubted it could be built, thinking the massive dome would fall to the ground.

Narration: It really was an engineering achievement. with the enormous copper dome being larger
than that of St Paul's and St Peters

Robyn Williams: Well this is the Shine Dome, the head quarters of the Australian Academy of
Science. The spiritual home of science in Australia.

Narration: The academy of science was founded in 1954 when the Queen passed over the royal charter
to Sir Mark Oliphant.

He helped put nuclear physics on the map in the 20th century. He was the right-hand man virtually
for the rather clumsy Lord Rutherford who helped split the atom.

Sir Mark Oliphant: The news that the French have detonated a nuclear device in the pacific
horrifies me.

Narration: Sir Mark Oliphant, who was one of the inspirations of this Academy of Science.

Narration: The building is like walking in a 1960's time-capsule.

(Radio Interview)Professor Frank Fenner: Malaria might be used to combat the Germans by keeping
them in the malarious areas of Silonica...

Narration: But the science is forever changing and being debated.

(Radio Interview) Professor Robertson: On the problem of the Crown of thorn starfish in the barrier

(Radio Interview) Sir Macfarlane Burnet: The next type of universal immunisation...

(Radio Interview) Tim Clarke: Australian should be looking for a new fuel urgently, according to a
report from the Academy.

Robyn: I couldn't fail to be impressed by some of the extraordinary people who made the Academy
what it is.

Like Dorthy Hill, the only woman so far to be president of the Academy of science, a geologist
specialising in the origins of coral reefs.

And further on there is someone like, Jack Eccles who had a slightly uneasy relationship with
Australia... someone who also got the Nobel prize for working out how the nervous system actually

Robyn: And then of course further on we've got the abiding genius, one of the top ten scientists of
the 20th century - Sir Macfarlene Burnet.

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet: From the point of view of science in the world generally I think we
can say that infectious disease has by enlarge been dealt with.

Robyn: It was rather fortunate that you had so many brilliant brains in this building because when
they started to use the conference centre here they got in and they began to feel strangely unwell.
The problem turned out to be the design of the actual room.

Robyn: It turned out to be a problem with these vertical stripes which was making the fellows feel
giddy - a syndrome called nystagmus. And so they put in these pieces of string. Problem solved.

Robyn: Well here we are in the basement of this extraordinary building where the archives, the
history, of all those hundreds and hundreds of scientists and the kind of research they did over
the years and one of the papers we came across was actually written to Sir Mark Oliphant whom we
met upstairs. And it's about this very building. It says, Dear Sir Mark, thank you for your letter
and the plan of the headquarters building for the Academy of Science. I am very depressed about
Canberra architecture. Whether your building will elevate my spirits I do not know, but I doubt it.
But good luck. Kind regards, Robert Menzies. History doesn't record whether the then prime minister
liked the flying saucer.

Narration: The Academy has 419 members ... many of whom are gathered here today. This is "Science at
Shine Dome" the Annual General Meeting and the induction of new Fellows into the Academy.

Narration: It is a time when fellows and friends come from across the country to celebrate
Australian science.

Professor Kurt Lumbeck: We celebrate the science because we know that scientifically literate
people are necessary.

Professor Sue Sargentjon: We form opinions on, scientific issues of the day...and we engage in
science education at every level.

Narration: So what do some of the young scientists think of the Academy?

Dr Vanessa Hayes: So it gives me an eye open to what you, what you can achieve and hopefully what I
will achieve in my career here in Australia.

Dr Ian Majewski: This idea of just working for science, championing science is so important I

Professor David Lindenmayer: It's such an honour. It's tremendous.

Robyn: And what's particularly interesting is for someone so involved in environmental research,
you know it couldn't be more timely really, this academy recognition.

Professor Lindenmayer: Absolutely. I think that there are such deep seated environmental issues
that need a lot of really good science to to unravel them if we're not going to make a whole series
of additional mistakes.

Narration: And what about Mac Burnet's comment?

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet: There will still be some need for research but on the whole we have
virtually eliminated infectious disease as an important cause of death...

Sir Gustav Nossal: So the infectious diseases aren't going to go away, chum, and I salute my good
friend up in the big hotel in the sky, but on this he was very wrong.

Robyn: So this is the Australian Academy of Science. It may look a bit cosmic, and got Robert
Menzies a little concerned. But I think it's a tremendously exciting place - apart from its history
- for two main reasons. The first is, it can tell the great science from the rubbish. And the
second is, it's for our children and about their scientific future.

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