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The old degree structure at Melbourne University


How I got to working with nitroglycerine
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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Now, at that time in Melbourne there was a sixth form which was the top two years, it was called Pass Sixth and then Honours Sixth. And because of our financial situation I had to leave at the end of Pass Sixth, whereas those students who were thinking of going to university normally went on to do Honours Sixth, and I got a cadetship, as it was called, in the University of Melbourne. Now, that was a real stroke of luck, it meant that I could go to the university, attend the chemistry classes as what they call day release, but I was a technician in the Chemistry Department so I didn't have to walk far, and then in the evening I would study the other subjects one by one, in the evening. It was a long day.

[Q] Sounds it, Norman, I have to say.

I have to say because it was by now in the war and as part of the war effort the university donated some of its technicians to CSIR [The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research], the Government research organisation, now called CSIRO [The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation], and... I was one of the youngsters who was transferred into this. So I joined a group which was studying the shock initiation of nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine, as you well know, is a very temperamental liquid explosive, the slightest tap will set it off.

Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.

Tags: Melbourne, University High School, University of Melbourne, WWII, CSIR, CSIRO

Duration: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011