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Michael Gore, AM - Professor, engineer, physicist, and founder of Questacon

The Australian National University, Emeritus Faculty Inc.

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CollectionsANU Emeritus Faculty Oral History Project
Title: Michael Gore, AM - Professor, engineer, physicist, and founder of Questacon
Author(s): Gore, Michael
Stewart, Peter
Keywords: Michael Gore
Emeritus Faculty
oral history
Publisher: The Australian National University, Emeritus Faculty Inc.
Michael Miles Gore was born in Bolton, Lancashire, in 1934, only child of an electrical engineer father and dedicated mother. Bolton was at that time a small, economically depressed city, where Mike did not do well in his early years in school. Eventually, he found himself in Worsley and Bolton Technical Schools, where inspiring teachers (like Alf Whittaker) soon put their stamp on his school work. From there he progressed smoothly (more or less following the path of his father) into electrical engineering and physics at Leeds University. Following his undergraduate years, Mike completed a PhD in electrical engineering in 1960. In his university days Mike began to explore more informal approaches to the getting of wisdom – observing how practical, off-beat problems provided special challenges, and the opportunity to learn by doing. Mike expanded his repertoire to include electronics and German (adding to his hard-won French). As a post-graduate student he tutored student peers, while others taught him theatre-set design and carpentry. These talents would remain with him for the rest of his life, marking a pronounced autodidactic streak in him. In 1962, after two post-doctoral years in the US (at Brown University, in Providence RI , where he met Joyce Klaber, an American whom he would marry a year later, in Canberra), Mike was offered a lectureship in physics in the newly established School of General Studies (SGS) at the Australian National University. His work there would continue for the next 37 years, during which he honed his special skills, and teaching style, in physics and engineering. Mike preferred teaching over research, a bias that suited his boss at ANU, Professor Noel Dunbar. Mike also had special aptitude with first year students, a further boon for his professor. Mike’s technical school teacher-mentor from his early Leeds days, Alf Whittaker, was an invaluable model for these early years at ANU. Mike became increasingly aware that learners with little exposure to science respond in different ways to the logic of science, and the always-questioning ways of scientific thinking. Accordingly, Mike looked for and found those light-bulb moments in science, and in learning more generally. The full model of what Mike had in mind took some years to unfold. Having arrived at ANU as an unmarried man, Mike was not entitled to his own house. However, he was soon ensconced in student digs, in the new Bruce Hall, on the western end of the then unsealed University Ave, a bumpy bike ride to the eastern edge of campus at the Childers St huts. Along this general axis were the SGS Departments of Physics, Psychology, Botany and Geology (and later the other ‘science teaching’ departments), the Student Union, the Chifley Library, the arts and economics faculties in the Haydon-Allen and Copland complexes, or over grasslands and up the hill towards University House and Acton Ridge, and the Research Schools of the Institute of Advanced Studies, the site of the original ANU.


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