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1878 - 1967

Kerr Grant met the ship as I arrived in Australia, joined my Board of Visitors and throughout my sixteen years in Australia impressed me profoundly with his love of physics - the real physics of things that you actually handle - and his interest in literatureR. v.d.R. Woolley (1)

Kerr Grant was educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Gottingen, Germany, where he graduated in 1904. On his return to Australia, he became a lecturer at the Ballarat School of Mines. Eventually Grant returned to the University of Melbourne as a tutor, and later worked with B.D. Steele in the Chemistry Department, before taking up the position of Professor in Physics at the University of Adelaide.

Kerr Grant was the Vice-Chair of the Optical Munitions Panel, often chairing meetings when T.H. Laby was absent due to ill-health. In March 1944, he became Chair, following Laby's resignation.

Kerr Grant headed the research group in the Physics Department at the University of Adelaide. This group undertook the important tasks of reconditioning binoculars and making spirit level bubbles. At the height of production, the laboratories at the University were producing spirit level bubbles at the rate of 10,000 per year! Grant was also responsible for the development of synthetic sapphires:

It's a terribly complex thing to make accurate bubbles in spirit levels and [Kerr Grant] found it to be so. I think he was the first man outside England and Germany to make synthetic sapphires for the mounting of instruments and I went over to congratulate him. He was working very hard and when I saw his wife in his university room and mentioned the sapphires she said "all I've ever had is synthetics so why should I be surprised". - Sir Lawrence Hartnett (2)

(1) R. Woolley (1968), 'Mount Stromlo Observatory', RAAS, vol 1, no. 3, November, pp. 53-7.
(2) Sir Laurence Hartnett (1985), 'Recollections of the Optical Munitions Panel in Australia', Australian Physicist, vol. 22, May, pp. 158-60; with notes by H.C. Bolton, p. 160.

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Bright SPARCS Biographical Entry

Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 30 April 1997
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (bsparcs@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
Prepared by: Denise Sutherland and Elissa Tenkate
Updated by: Joanne Evans
Date modified: 4 January 1998

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