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The Faculty takes shape

A change in plans

ad for four chairs
The advertisement for the four Foundation Professors of Engineering that appeared in Australia and overseas.

With the appointment of Crisp, Sinclair, Murray and Phillips, it initially looked as though Hunt’s department-less Faculty was becoming a reality. However, in 1962 Hunt was forced to alter his course. In 1961 plans for expanding the Faculty by establishing additional Chairs were moved through the now constituted Monash University Council. In September of that year, Hunt detailed his plans for establishing Chairs in the fields of Structures, Fluid Mechanics, and Electrical and Chemical Engineering to a Council Committee on Engineering Chairs. It was agreed at this meeting that these four Chairs would be advertised immediately with the appointed professors commencing in late 1962 and early 1963. These new specialist engineers would join the group of four senior lecturers who were already building the Faculty. 

By the end of February Hunt had received dozens of applications for the Chairs. His detailed list revealed a total of 20 candidates for the Chair in Electrical Engineering, 11 for Chemical Engineering and 15 each for Fluid Mechanics and Structures. Applicants were both from within Australia, including some from Monash, and from overseas – including one applicant from Kenya and another from Libya. All was still going according to Hunt’s plan until Douglas Lampard, one of the candidates for the Chair of Electrical Engineering, was offered the Chair.

lampard application letter
Doug Lampard's application letter

Lampard was an electrical engineer working in the Division of Applied Physics at CSIRO in New South Wales. He was clearly an outstanding applicant and was placed on the shortlist of four. He was asked to attend an interview in early May 1962, just over a year after Monash first opened its doors to students. A week later, Lampard was offered the Chair of Electrical Engineering, which he accepted. It was during the negotiations for Lampard’s arrival date at Monash that a problem became apparent. Doug Lampard did not share Ken Hunt’s vision of a Faculty of Engineering without departments.

Lampard had noted in his application for the Monash Chair that while he had been appointed Chair in Electrical Engineering at the University of New South Wales in August 1960, he had resigned, almost immediately, ‘due to complete dissatisfaction with the administrative set-up at this University’. While the details of this administrative set-up are unclear, what is clear is that as a result of his previous experiences, Doug Lampard was extremely concerned about the conditions of his Monash appointment.

As soon as he received the offer, Lampard immediately wrote to Hunt expressing his humble gratitude. He also raised his concerns about the conditions of his appointment at Monash and sought Hunt’s reassurance. Hunt forwarded the letter directly to Vice-Chancellor Louis Matheson who responded to Lampard, confirming that although resources were being finalised, he could most probably offer Lampard an additional senior lecturer and £25,000 in research support for a Department of Electrical Engineering. He offered the following words to Lampard:

Monash is a very exciting and stimulating place to work in and there is no doubt that in a few years you will have a thriving Department which you yourself will have created. If in the meantime there is rather a lot of Churchill’s ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ then the final result will be so much the more rewarding.

And so, in order to secure Lampard as the Foundation Chair in Electrical Engineering, Hunt was forced to alter his vision for a unified Faculty.

By May 1963 the Monash University Council Committee on the Chairs of Engineering had met 27 times. Along with Doug Lampard they had appointed Ron Barden to the Chair of Fluid Mechanics and Owen Potter to the Chair of Chemical Engineering. One Chair remained unfilled, the Chair of Structures Engineering. It remained vacant until 1964 when the Chair was re-examined and re-named the Chair of Civil Engineering. Noel Murray, who was originally appointed Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering in 1961, was appointed Chair of Civil Engineering shortly after, nearly completing the appointments of Foundation Professors within the Faculty of Engineering.

By the time Noel Murray was appointed to the Chair of Civil Engineering, five departments had emerged within the Faculty: Electrical Engineering, headed by Professor Doug Lampard; Civil Engineering, headed by Professor Noel Murray; Chemical Engineering, headed by Professor Owen Potter; Mechanical Engineering, headed by Professor Ron Barden; and Applied Mechanics, headed by Ken Hunt.

In 1967, just after Hunt became the full-time Dean of the Faculty, the department he headed, Applied Mechanics, became part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, reducing the number of departments within the Faculty to four. It was shortly after these two departments merged, that a second Chair was advertised in the Department of Civil Engineering, a Chair of Materials Science. Ian Polmear, who came to Monash from the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne, was appointed to this position in 1967. A small materials group, in which Polmear was highly active, formed within the Department of Civil Engineering. Within three years, this small group broke away to form the Faculty’s fifth department, Materials Engineering, with Ian Polmear at the helm.

Over the space of a decade Ken Hunt and his core group of foundation lecturers, and later professors, built a strong and dynamic Faculty of Engineering. According to those who have taught, researched and studied in the Faculty of Engineering over the past 50 years, this group of foundation academic staff is the reason the Faculty stands as strong as it does today.

The selection and employment of this early core group is one of the many legacies of Ken Hunt. The foundation lecturers and professors he employed shared his dream and worked tirelessly to build a unique and dynamic Faculty that emphasised research and prioritised high quality teaching. They have influenced its character and its spirit and continue to do so, even though many of them have long since passed on.

Foundation Chairs

References:

  1. Monash University Archives, Charles Sinclair Staff File
  2. Monash University Archives, Jack Phillips Staff File
  3. Monash University Archives, Noel Murray Staff File
  4. Monash University Archives, John Crisp Staff File
  5. Monash University Archives, Owen Potter Staff File
  6. Monash University Archives, Bill Brown Interview
  7. Monash University Archives, Owen Potter Interview
  8. Monash University Archives, Frank Lawson Interview
  9. Monash University Archives, Peter Uhlherr Interview
  10. Monash University Archives, John Sheridan Interview
  11. Monash University Archives, Interim Council Minutes