ANU Research School of Chemistry Director Dr John Carver with his son John in front of the John Carver Building.

ANU Research School of Chemistry Director Dr John Carver with his son John in front of the John Carver Building.

Carver-ing out a niche in history

What's in a name? A procession of John Carvers has helped shape ANU and Australian science for decades, as DR PHIL DOOLEY, BSc (Hons) '90, PhD '99 explains.

In 1670s Yorkshire, farmer John Carver would have been astonished to know that 400 years later, a high-tech building on a distant continent would bear his name.

He would no doubt be pleased that his great-great-great-great-great grandson, John Carver VI, had been such prominent natural philosopher - or physicist as they would be known - and had such formative influence on the new country's national university to merit the naming of this building after him.

He would be dumbstruck to know the John Carver Building would house experiments in a mysterious new substance called antimatter and there would be a large chamber containing fusion plasma - the stuff of the sun, only hotter.

He'd be astounded by miraculous lamps named laser beams, far brighter than the sun, which can move tiny particles around at will. Tractors were still more than 200 years away, let alone tractor beams.

The John Carver line has continued. The seventh John Carver - Dr John Carver, PhD '83 - was also drawn to physics and is now Director of the ANU Research School of Chemistry (RSC) at this same institution.

Would the first John Carver have believed his descendant would use mystical instruments that use magnets to see into the structure of molecules and his investigations would reveal intricate details about the agents of human diseases of ageing itself?