During the Second World War, the Physics Department at the University of Sydney was headed by Professor Vonwiller. Perhaps the most notable achievement of the Physics Laboratory at the University was the design and manufacture of the ring-sight telescope, a very complex optical instrument used as an anti-aircraft gun accessory:
an instrument which when trained on a moving target indicated (at least in theory) to the gun crew the correct point of aim and fuse setting to cause a shell to explode on the target ... [it is] mechanically and optically one of the most complicated of military instruments, [and includes] twenty-eight lenses and prisms and several intricate moving parts.(1)
Other work undertaken by the Physics Department included the reconditioning and tropic proofing of approximately 10,000 binoculars (of differing types), donated to the war effort by the Australian people; the manufacture of various optical instruments; investigation and development of blooming techniques for glass ('a method of treating glass surfaces to increase the amount of light passing through the glass by reducing losses by reflection'(2) - thus increasing the effectiveness of optical instruments such as telescopes and cameras in poor light); and investigation of desiccating agents, such as silica gel and alumina, which absorb water and could be used to fight mould problems experienced by Australian defence forces in the tropics.
The University was also used as a location for lectures on optical design principles. Following the formation of the Optical Munitions Panel, N.A. Esserman, from the Munitions Supply Laboratories, gave a series of lectures on optical computations. Other University of Sydney physicists, including Vonwiller and G.A. Harle, also presented courses on geometrical optics.
(1) D.P. Mellor (1958), 'Optical Munitions', Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Role of Science and Industry, ch. 12, series 4: civil, vol. 5, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p. 274-5.
(2) D.P. Mellor (1958), 'Optical Munitions', Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Role of Science and Industry, ch. 12, series 4: civil, vol. 5, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p. 275.