Major gift funds cutting-edge scientific research

31 August 2011

Graduate and donor John Hooke (left) and Prof Clive Baldock, Head of the School of Physics, standing on the site where the new Australian Institute of Nanoscience will be built.
Graduate and donor John Hooke (left) and Prof Clive Baldock, Head of the School of Physics, standing on the site where the new Australian Institute of Nanoscience will be built.

A generous gift of $5 million from one of Australia's leading businessmen will enable the University of Sydney to make major advances in the exciting new field of nanoscience.

The gift from John Hooke CBE, former Chairman and CEO of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA) will endow a new academic chair in the School of Physics and the Australian Institute of Nanoscience which is to be built at the University of Sydney. The chair will be named the John Hooke Chair of Nanosciences.

"John Hooke has made an extremely generous and farsighted donation which will allow us to take important steps in cutting edge research," said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney. "Transformational gifts like this make an enormous difference not only for today's students and researchers, but for future generations."

Nanoscience involves interdisciplinary research which has the potential to deliver more energy-efficient communications and advances in medical imaging and treatment of diseases through nano-devices based on quantum physics and photonics.

John Hooke graduated from the University of Sydney with the degree of Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics, followed by a Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honours and University Medal. After university he joined Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd where he was involved in the production of the first transistors. He rose through the company to became Chairman and Chief Executive of AWA from 1974-1988.

"I have always been extremely passionate about science and how it may benefit society," Mr Hooke said. "Australian industry requires new technologies and a new generation with the skills to work across disciplines from science to engineering to medicine. Nanoscience has so many applications and possibilities, it's really a revolution and I am delighted to be able to help this exciting new endeavour at the University of Sydney," he said.

John Hooke's passion for science and new discoveries mirrors that of his father, Sir Lionel Hooke. As a young man Lionel Hooke was attracted to experimental wireless and aged 19, as an employee of AWA he was selected to join Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the South Pole. It was Hooke's morse code messages which eventually saved the expedition after they were trapped in pack ice for months. Lionel Hooke went on to run AWA until 1974 during which time the company expanded and was responsible for Australia's first radio, television and optical fibres.

John Hooke took over as Chairman and CEO of AWA on his father's death. He was heavily involved in manufacturing policy issues for many years, served on several government committees and was Chairman of the Defence Industry Committee.

He was also was Chairman of Tubemakers of Australia and a director of a number of companies, including BHP, National Australia Bank, AMP General Insurance, Channel Ten, Crane Group, and Interscan Australia. John Hooke was a member of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and is currently Chairman of Universal Solar and Surface Science Pty Ltd. He has been a council member and deputy president of the Science Foundation for Physics at the University of Sydney.

Professor Clive Baldock, Head of the School of Physics said: "John Hooke's extremely generous gift will make a significant contribution to the development of nanosciences at the University of Sydney. The person appointed to the Chair of Nanosciences will take a significant leadership role in developing the vision for the Australian Institute of Nanoscience. This is a very exciting development for the School of Physics and the University as we explore new frontiers of science."

The new Australian Institute of Nanoscience at the University of Sydney is to be housed in a purpose built facility adjacent to and integrated with the School of Physics. Funded by the Federal government and the University it will bring together researchers and teachers working in world class laboratories for research in quantum science, photonics, biomedical science and material systems at the single atom level. Work on the new building is due to commence early in 2012 and it is expected to be completed in early 2014.

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