People & Ideas

Jan 24, 2014

Meet Sir Lawrence Bragg: the greatest Australian you’ve never heard of

This Australia Day, enough with actors and sports stars. Researcher Cameron Turner says there is one Australian who deserves the accolades more than any other -- and you've never heard of him.

On Sunday we celebrate our achievements as a nation and our great compatriots, and since 1960 we have been giving out the “Australian of the Year Award” every January 26Chief among the heroes who tug on our sense of national pride are sports stars, Hollywood actors and artists. Rarely at the forefront of the celebrations are the many great scientists and intellectuals Australia has produced.


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8 thoughts on “Meet Sir Lawrence Bragg: the greatest Australian you’ve never heard of

  1. wayne robinson

    DNA isn’t a protein, as stated in the article.

  2. Shakespeare

    lovely article, Cameron, but why on earth do you denegrate another great scientist by claiming that it was Watson and Crisk who identified DNA’s double-helix structure via X-ray crystallography? it was their colleague, Rosalind Frnklin, who conducted the crystallography and determined that DNA is a double helix. They then proposed a model of the arrangement of the amino acid bases, based on her work. Even Crick has acknowledged that they took her data without her permission and under-reported her contribution.

    You owe an apology and a correction to you article.

  3. CliffG

    South Australians remember him. A number of sites at Adelaide University honour his name.

  4. zut alors

    Good article, thanks.

    There’s also a SA state electorate called Bragg (in the general vicinity of Glenunga, Toorak Gardens & surrounds).

  5. J M

    Yes, great to see Lawrence Bragg being recognised in 2014, the UNESCO International Year of Crystallography. You can find out more about Bragg here:
    and a great tribute by his daughter Lady Patience Thomson
    And about IYCr here

  6. John Jenkin

    I refer to the article “Meet Lawrence Bragg”. I welcome it heartily and applaud its central message: that Lawrence Bragg is one of the very greatest of all Australians, that he is almost totally unrecognised here, and that it is time we got past Banjo Paterson and Don Bradman!
    However, the article has a couple of important errors. Lawrence spent much time as a boy at the home and observatory of his grandfather, Sir Charles Todd, South Australia’s Government Astronomer, Postmaster General, and builder of the Overland Telegraph Line, not at the Australian Astronomical Observatory. Lawrence’s father, Sir William Bragg, left Adelaide for a professorship at Leeds, not Cambridge. And I believe Lawrence’s work during WWI played a central part in the Allied victory; another Bragg story almost totally unknown. It is told, along with much else, in John Jenkin, “William and Lawrence Bragg, Father and Son” (Oxford: OUP, 2011pb).
    John Jenkin, Carlton.

  7. tonyl

    The Braggs’ pioneering work in x-ray crystallography is included in the NSW Year 12 Physics syllabus. (Of course Max von Laue may feel slightly left out)

  8. Neil Robertson

    One more error in this article – Watson and Crick proposed the double helix model based on Franklin’s fibre diffraction pattern, not crystallography.

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