Dr Alan Head, AO

Alan-HeadBallarat Grammar 1935 – 1940, Dux of School 1940

  • PhD (Bristol University)
  • DSc (University of Melbourne) FAA, FRS
  • Adjunct Professor (Swinburne University)
  • Deceased 2010

Alan was a mathematical physicist whose diverse scientific contributions ranged from a design for a giant radio telescope to a potential design for a refrigerator that obtained its cooling power by selectively radiating electromagnetic radiation through a ‘window’ in the earth’s atmosphere to outer space. He was a recognised world authority in solid-state physics, especially in the field of crystal defects.

In 1957, Alan accepted an invitation to join CSIRO’s Division of Tribophysics, later renamed the Division of Materials Science. He was offered Chairs at various universities, but always turned them down because the administration involved would interfere with his research. He was invited to become the Founding Director of CSIRO’s Institute of Physical Sciences. He declined the offer. He preferred the intellectual freedom that was available to him working as a Chief Scientist.

Alan, aged 10, won a boarding scholarship to Ballarat Grammar. He discovered that pupils who were invited to make a four to play bridge with the Housemaster also received afternoon tea and scones with jam and cream. So Alan went to the library and learned how to play contract bridge. Throughout his life, Alan felt that theory was only good if it led to a practical and useful result!