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Division of Radiophysics (1950)


Produced by the CSIRO Information Service, this public relations documentary outlines some of the major investigations undertaken by the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics at the University of Sydney during the 1940s. It shows their research and study in the areas of radio astronomy (clip one), moon echoes (clip two), radar meteorology, rain making, electronic computing, radar aids to navigation and airport control, upper air investigations and radio-controlled devices. Scenes include laboratory work, field tests and the use of scientific equipment.

Curator’s notes

The CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory was established in August 1939, just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War; initial work involved the development of radar equipment to aid the Allied forces in the war effort. The Radiophysics Laboratory became a division of the CSIRO in 1940. At the end of the war, the program was reorientated, in the words of the narrator, to the ‘peacetime application of radar techniques’, some of which are surveyed in this film.

The film is broken into segments, each outlining the work of a particular area. The explanations are clear and the film is evidently scripted for a non-scientific audience. It presents the CSIRO’s scientific research as applicable to a broad range of fields including science, communications, meteorology, air transport, surveillance and astronomy.

The CSIRO Film Unit was established in 1949 and is the country’s oldest science film unit. In 1978 it became the CSIRO Film and Video Centre, and is now known as CSIRO Publishing. The unit has produced hundreds of documentaries, educational and training films in the past 60 years including the award-winning Birth of the Red Kangaroo (1965). The CSIRO has deposited a large amount of its film material, scripts and film unit documentation with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.