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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Recent Research

From 1949 to May 1955 a small group of physicists at the Dominion Physical Laboratory and chemists at the Dominion Chemical Laboratory worked in close cooperation in an endeavour to introduce some of the newer techniques of nuclear science into New Zealand's scientific problems. Radioactive phosphorus was used in fertiliser trials first by R. E. R. Grimmett of the Soil Fertility Station, Hamilton, in September 1950, while D. W. Urquart was the first to use radioactive phosphorus for medical therapy at Palmerston North in February 1955. Radio-iodine for the treatment of thyroid disorders and isotopically enriched nitrogenous fertilisers in plant experiments were other experiments in which the small nuclear science group participated. A radioactive survey, using modern electronic equipment, was made of the thermal areas, and a method for the ageing of carbonaceous specimens by their radioactive carbon content was perfected. By June 1955 the group of physicists and chemists combined to form the Isotope Division of the Dominion Physical Laboratory, and by June of 1957 had become a separate Division of Nuclear Sciences of D.S.I.R. under the director, T. A. Rafter, and was housed at Gracefield, Lower Hutt.

As nuclear science had expanded within D.S.I.R., so also had progress been made in the universities. Research in nuclear physics was being sponsored in all four university colleges. At Otago University, under R. R. Nimmo, a low-energy 800 kev. Van de Graaff accelerator had been constructed. At Auckland University, first under P. W. Burbidge and, later, under D. Brown and E. R. Collins, a vigorous nuclear research programme was initiated. A 600 kev. Cockcroft-Walton accelerator was constructed and used for a variety of experiments in which the emphasis has been placed on the study of the polarisation of nucleons emitted following nuclear reactions. In the chemistry department, D. Llewellyn and A. L. Odell have built up a strong department, using radiochemical and mass spectrometric techniques for training and research.