No. 34, March 1995 ISSN 0811-4757Edited and published by Tim Sherratt (Tim.Sherratt@asap.unimelb.edu.au) for ASAP.
Peter Mason was born in London in 1922. He came to Australia as a CSIRO post-doctoral research fellow in 1962 and in 1966 he became Foundation Professor of Physics at Macquarie University, a position he held until shortly before his death from a brain tumour in 1987. As well as his successful scientific career he was an outstanding science communicator, being the author of several popular books on science and appearing regularly on ABC science programmes. ABC Radio Science Unit producer Robyn Williams, who worked with Peter Mason on many occasions, has described him as having 'several fundamental beliefs':
One was that people have an equal right to be taken seriously and to be given consideration. Another was that science should be for everybody. A third was that most subjects could be treated as being potentially hilarious. When these were applied to the latest dramatic twist in politics or research he could think his way through as only a few privileged souls can and come up with a remarkable and refreshing viewpoint. He was no ideologue. Nor was he a 'sage on a stage'. There was nothing he enjoyed more than having some five year old telling him he was a clot. But he was also without fear. Who else would dare bowl up to a school speech on Rememberance Day - and describe Gallipoli from a poor Turkish kid's point of view? Who else would agree to face a live radio audience with Margaret Throsby and take on all comers with their science questions - while professing to be not nearly as informed as the general audience? Who else would greet the diagnosis of a brain tumour that would wipe out his left-brain functions of literacy and numeracy as being challenges for him to develop right-brain functions of artistry and design? All with that beaming smile on his face. Enthusiasm you could bottle!
His most interesting collection of personal records reflects the various aspects of his life. The large series of personal-biographical material includes family memorabilia and various items revealing some of his other interests such as politics. There are the usual series of scientific publications, reviews, speeches and articles, as well as material relating to his popular publications, both published and proposed. Some material is concerned with Macquarie University as well as other organisations, and the audiovisual material includes audio cassettes of his memorial service at Macquarie University.
ASAP is grateful to Macquarie University for providing financial assistance towards the processing of this collection, and to Robyn Williams, Executive Producer of the ABC's Science Unit for writing an introduction to the Guide to the records, which will be published shortly.
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