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Speech at the Inauguration of the Anglo-Australian Telescope, Siding Spring



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SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR E.G. WHITLAM, Q .C ., M .P .,

AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE ANGLO-AUSTRALIAN TELESCOPE,

SIDING SPRING, NSW, WEDNESDAY, 16 OCTOBER, 1974

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T h e r e c o u ld b e no more f i t t i n g s y m b o l o f t h e

An g lo- A u s t r a l ia n r e l a t io n s h ip t h a n t h i s t e l e s c o p e . I t ,

COMMEMORATES A S P IR IT OF S C IE N T IF IC ENDEAVOUR - AND A \

HISTORY OF ^ASTRONOMICAL RESEARCH - THAT BEGAN WITH COOK'S • ' ti . .

FIRST VOYAGE TO THE SOUTH SEAS. THE ASTRONOMERS OF THE Φ ·

Ro y a l So c ie t y i n t h e l a t e e ig h t e e n t h c e n t u r y s e t o u t to

' ■ ' t ' ·* ·â–  ?

o b s e r v e t h e t r a n s it o f V e n u s . Cook f in is h e d up c h a r t in g

THE EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA. ASTRONOMERS - WHO IN SUCH

MATTERS, AS IN ALL THINGS, TAKE THE LONG VIEW " W ILL.

DOUBTLESS CONTINUE TO ARGUE WHICH OF THESE PHENOMENA WAS.

MORE IMPORTANT.

T he f a c t r e m a in s t h a t t h e c o l o n is a t io n of

Au s t r a l ia b y Eu r o p e a n s h ad i t s o r ig in s in an

A s t r o n o m ic a l p r o j e c t . T r a d e f o llo w e d t h e f l a g , b u t t h e

FLAG FOLLOWED THE TELESCOPE. I t MAY NOT BE TOO ROMANTIC

TO SUGGEST THAT THE TELESCOPE ON THE ENDEAVOUR WAS AS

POTENT A SYMBOL OF B R IT A IN /s IMPERIAL GREATNESS AS

Ne l s o n ' s t e l e s c o p e on t h e V ic t o r y . More t h a n two c e n t u r ie s

a f t e r Co o k ' s v o y a g e , Br i t i s h a n d Au s t r a l ia n a s tr o n o m e r s

CAN NOW PURSUE THEIR OBSERVATIONS OF THE SOUTHERN SKIES

WITH THIS NEW ANGLO-AUSTRALIAN TELESCOPE - THIS B R ILLIA N T

EXAMPLE OF ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY AND PRECISION ENGINEERING

WHICH WE SEE BEFORE US. .

Vi ^ f l l commend Pr o f e s s o r Ho y l e ' s v ie w t h a t " a t e l e s c o p eΩ . *ν·-,Λ ·â– ·; . - λ . IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE THINGS WHICH OUR C IV IL IZ A T IO N Λ ·â–  : /-·«

DOES W ELL". It IS A good e x a m p l e o f - t h e t h in g s w h ic h

A TRUE C IV IL IZ A T IO N ALONE CAN DO, ASTRONOMY IS ONE OF

THE FEW S C IE N T IF IC PURSUITS - CERTAIN BRANCHES OF /

MATHEMATICS, CERTAIN BRANCHES OF THEORETICAL NUCLEAR .

PHYSICS ARE OTHERS - WHICH EXIST FOR-NO OTHER PURPOSE ' · ‘ ··. ... . ' · . . : ··. ’ . "

THAN THE PURE SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE, No ONE DOUBTS THAT " · . · .

ASTRONOMY HAS ITS PRACTICAL USES.'* GOVERNMENTS ARE /

FREQUENTLY REMINDED OF THEM BY ASTRONOMERS THEMSELVES,

Ne v e r t h e l e s s , t h e t r u e g lo r y of a s tr o n o m y l i e s in t h e

VALUE IT PLACES ON KNOWLEDGE FOR ITS OWN SAKE - KNOWLEDGE

OF AN ABSOLUTE AND FUNDAMENTAL KIND. No C IV IL IZ A T IO N

CAN REMAIN INDIFFERENT TO THE ORIGINS OF THE EARTH OR

ITS PLACE IN THE COSMOS, ·

Astro no m y i s r ic h in t h e o r ie s b u t somewhat

DEFICIENT IN PRACTICAL RESULTS. I n THAT RESPECT IT CAN

BE LIKENED TO ECONOMICS. I n ITS ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE

ANSWERS TO THE ULTIMATE QUESTIONS ABOUT MAN'S ENVIRONMENT

AND HIS PLACE IN R EALITY, IT CAN BE LIKENED TO RELIGION.

I t i s no a c c id e n t t h a t t h e h ig h p r ie s t s of as tr o n o m y

CONDUCT THEIR NOCTURNAL RITES IN REMOTE TEMPLES ON

INACCESSIBLE MOUNTAINTOPS. So I THINK THERE IS AN .

EXCELLENT CASE FOR GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR ASTRONOMY, JUST

a s we g iv e St a t e a i d to o th e r r e l ig io u s e n t e r p r is e s . We

ARE NOT ALONE IN T H IS , ΪΗ Ε AMERICANS, A PRAGMATIC AND

HARD-HEADED PEOPLE, HAVE PROVIDED VAST PUBLIC FUNDS FOR

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:·â– â– â–  . ··.·â– ·â– â– '............ -:U\ " ' · : '·â–  S'* / " < ■ '*' '■ .. ’ :fK·'. .

A SPACE PROGRAM WHOSE ULTIMATE PURPOSE IS TO ADD

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TO MAN S KNOWLEDGE OF THE COSMOS AND HIS PLACE

W ITHIN IT , I WOULD NOT WISH TO JUSTIFY THE i

SCALE OF THAT EXPENDITURE/ BUT I APPROVE ' .

WHOLEHEARTEDLY THE PURPOSES BEHIND IT ,

Go v e r n m e n t s u p p o r t for a s tr o n o m y has a

LONG HISTORY, I t CAN BE TRACED FROM THE ANCIENT

C IV IL IZ A T IO N S TO THE PRESENT DAY. FROM THE . . . -

Eg y p t ia n s , t h e Pe r s ia n s , Co p e r n ic u s , Ga l i l e o ,

Newton a n d Ke p l e r , to t h e p la t f o r m of t h e

A u s t r a l ia n La b o r Pa r t y . Our p o l ic y on s c ie n c e

PLEDGES "PARTICULAR SUPPORT TO AREAS IN

w h ic h Au s t r a l ia can m a k e a s p e c ia l c o n t r ib u t io n ,

INCLUDING ASTR O N O M Y...". : , . ... - / ·; : .

. . . / A

I n t h e e ig h t e e n t h and n in e t e e n t h c e n t u r ie s a s tr o n o m y was

RECOGNISED FOR ITS IMPORTANCE TO NAVIGATION AND ' ' - ;■ ■ ■ ■ ■ . ■ ■ . .. . ■ _ . 7 ' ' :':V ' .·

CARTOGRAPHY. I t WAS SUFFICIENTLY IMPORTANT AT THE TIME

of Federation for the founding fathers to make s p e c if ic

PROVISION IN THE AUSTRALIAN CONSTITUTION FOR THE PARLIAMENT

TO MAKE LAWS WITH RESPECT TO ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONS.

TWO SUCH LAWS HAVE BEEN MADE: IN 1 9 3 0 , WHEN PARLIAMENT

ESTABLISHED THE COMMONWEALTH SOLAR OBSERVATORY, AND ' ; V >

IN 1970 WHEN IT PASSED LEGISLATION SETTING UP THE AGREEMENT " . . . ; . .

FOR THIS TELESCOPE AT S lD IN G SPRING. I t IS APPROPRIATE .

THAT THE STUDY OF THE LAWS OF THE PLANETS AND STARS SHOULD

BE MENTIONED IN THE AUSTRALIAN CONSTITUTION - A DOCUMENT AS

TIMELESS.AND IMMUTABLE AS THE HEAVENLY BODIES THEMSELVES.

Th e p r e s e n t Au s t r a l ia n c o m m it m e n t to a s tr o n o m y .

i s e x t e n s iv e . Th e Au s t r a l ia n Na t io n a l Un i v e r s i t y o p e r a t e s

MAJOR OPTICAL TELESCOPES AT MOUNT STROMOLO AND HERE AT *

S i d i n g Sp r in g . Ma j o r r a d io t e l e s c o p e s a r e o p e r a t e d b y t h e

C . S . I . R . O . and b y Sy d n e y Un i v e r s i t y . T he Un i v e r s i t y of

Ta s m a n ia h a s a g ro w ing in v o l v e m e n t in a s tr o n o m y a n d t h e r e

a r e St a t e Go v e r n m e n t o b s e r v a t o r ie s in Sy d n e y a n d P e r t h .

T he A u s t r a l ia n Na t io n a l Un i v e r s i t y a s tr o n o m e r s h a v e g a in e d

A WORLD-WIDE REPUTATION FOR THEIR WORK ON THE STRUCTURE AND

EVOLUTION OF GALAXIES, STELLAR STRUCTURE AND THE CHEMICAL

COMPOSITION OF STARS. RADIO ASTRONOMERS IN C . S . I . R . O . AND

Sy d n e y Un i v e r s i t y h a v e m ade im p o r t a n t c o n t r ib u t io n s to

QUASAR ASTRONOMY AND TO THE STUDY OF THE STRUCTURE AND

EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE.

Gro ups w o r k in g w it h t h e Pa r k e s r a d io t e l e s c o p e h a v e :

RECENTLY DISCOVERED MANY DIFFERENT SPECIES OF ORGANIC / ·

MOLECULES IN THE GAS CLOUDS OF INTERSTELLAR"SPACE. THESE

DISCOVERIES MAY THROW LIGHT ON THE PROCESSES THAT LED TO

THE EXISTENCE OF L IF E ON EARTH, ASTRONOMERS AT SYDNEY

Un i v e r s i t y h a v e per fo r m ed work o f f u n d a m e n t a l s i g n if i c a n c e

IN THE MEASUREMENT OF THE SIZES OF STELLAR OBJECTS,

T he Bu d g e t l a s t month p r o v id e d a g r a n t to e n a b l e a s t u d y

OF A NEW INSTRUMENT TO EXTEND TH IS WORK. 7

Astro no m y for m any y e a r s has e n jo y e d a w id e m e a s u r e

OF INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION BOTH AT THE INSTITUTIO NAL ,

AND THE IN D IV ID U A L LEVEL AND AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMY HAS

BENEFITED FROM T H IS , AUSTRALIA AND B R ITA IN ARE SHARING

EQUALLY THE CAPITAL COST OF THIS TELESCOPE, AMOUNTING TO

$16 M ILLIO N AND THE ESTIMATED ANNUAL OPERATING COST OF

$ 1 ,3 m i l l i o n , Ma n y of t h e a s t r o n o m ic a l f a c i l i t i e s in

Au s t r a l ia were b u i l t w it h fu n d s c o n t r ib u t e d p a r t l y from

ABROAD AND MANY OF THE ASTRONOMERS WORKING IN AUSTRALIA

WERE BORN OVERSEAS. SOME ARE HERE AS VISITORS AND SOME

ARE‘ PERMANENT RESIDENTS, THEY. COME FROM A VARIETY OF

"OUNTRIES INCLUDING SRI LANKA, IN D IA , KOREA, THE PEOPLE'S

Re p u b l ic of Ch i n a , I s r a e l , Po l a n d , t h e Un it e d K in g d o m ,

Ge r m a n y, U . S . A . , *!ew Z e a l a n d ' a n d Sw e d e n , T he D ir e c t o r

of t h i s t e l e s c o p e , Dr E ,J : Wa m p l e r , i s an Am e r ic a n c i t i z e n

AND TWO OF THE THREE AUSTRALIAN MEMBERS ON THE AAT BOARD,

Dr Wi l d and Pr o fe s s o r St r e e t , were born in t h e Un it e d K in g d o m

T h e r e a r e m a n y Au s t r a l ia n a s tr o n o m e r s w o r k in g o v e r s e a s ,

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OF THIS TELESCOPE, :.: I AM PROUD THAT’ MY GOVERNMENT, IS . V·.

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CONTRIBUTING TO ITS :COST. ITS BEAUTY/-ITS:POW ER, ITS .. . ■

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PRECISION REFLECT THE HIGHEST CREDIT ON ALL WHO DESIGNED . .

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a n d b u i l t i t . T h o s e who u s e i t ,. l i k e po l i t i c a n s , w i l l

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S IT THROUGH THE LONG REACHES OF THE NIGHT, YOU WI LL.

CONTRIBUTE TO MAN' S UNDERSTANDING OF THE EARTH AND THE

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U N IV E R S E . T h e Q U E S T IO N S YOU ASK ARE O F 'T R A N S C E N D E N T A L

IMPORTANCE TO OUR KNOWLEDGE OF OURSELVES AND OUR SURROUNDINGS, ••'■v.

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I t MAY WELL BE THAT THE ULTIMATE ANSWERS YOU SEEK W IL L : : V/

ALWAYS ELUDE YOU; THAT IN THE LAST RESORT THE MYSTERIES YOU

ATTEMPT TO UNRAVEL W ILL REMAIN IN THE PHILOSOPHER S COURT,

For ALL THAT, IT IS GOOD TO REFLECT THAT HERE IN THIS o ' . ο

BUILDING AND IN OTHERS LIK E I T , AMONG YOU AND YOUR Λ

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COLLEAGUES, S C IE N T IF IC RESEARCH IN ITS PUREST, MOST · , ■ . ' ' - . ■ .. . ■ * *. ■ · - , . *: .

PEACEFUL AND MOST DISINTERESTED FORM W ILL GO FORWARD FOR

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THE ENRICHMENT OF OUR UNDERSTANDING'AND FOR THE BENEFIT

OF FUTURE GENERATIONS, ' V

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