Prime MInister Gough Whitlam opened the ANU Heavy Ion Accelerator, as covered by ANU Reporter in 1973.

Prime MInister Gough Whitlam opened the ANU Heavy Ion Accelerator, as covered by ANU Reporter in 1972.

Accelerating to nuclear heights

While the opening of the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility in 1972 had the Prime Ministerial touch, it didn't win over everyone on campus. DR PHIL DOOLEY, BSc (Hons) '90, PhD '99 reports.

The proposal to build a new heavy ion accelerator at ANU was a single page document, given directly to the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies.

"It was a far cry from the grant paperwork needed these days," says Dr David Weisser, long-time accelerator manager and at the time, a researcher in the Department of Nuclear Physics.

The proposal was delivered by Professor (later Sir) Ernest Titterton, Director of the Department, who had worked on radars in the UK during the Second World War.

Enticing a prominent scientist such as Ernest to come to Australia was a coup and his stature and political sway opened doors to the Prime Minister.

But Ernest also had a talent for making enemies and other areas on campus felt the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

They bitterly referred to the accelerator tower as "Ernie's erection", which, at 47 metres high, was the tallest in Canberra - until Black Mountain Tower was opened in 1980.