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330 Burhop to Rivett

Letter WASHINGTON, 28 October 1944

Many thanks for your recent letter [1] and for the help you have given my wife in her efforts to get across to join me. I understand that she expects to leave at an early date and I won't be sorry to see the rest of my family again, I can assure you.

I had a letter [2] from Martin recently which raised the question of the desirability of my return to Melbourne at an early date. I have given this matter a good deal of thought and last week discussed it with Chadwick. [3] He very definitely took the view that it was most undesirable that I should return at this stage both from my own point of view and from the point of view of Australia having some representation in the scheme. [4] Eventually I promised to continue with this work throughout next year provided you and the University would agree to my release for that period. Accordingly he said he would approach the British Chancellor [5] immediately to get a request forwarded to Australia through the High Commissioner. No doubt this request [6] will have been dealt with ere you receive this letter.

I feel this was the correct decision to have made, not only on personal, but also on much broader grounds. I wish I could give you some idea of the stupendous scale on which the work is being undertaken, but this is not possible. Personally I have not a doubt but that the strength and influence of a nation in the future will be determined to a considerable extent by its progress in this field. I think therefore it would be wrong for Australia, having got such a slender toe-hold in the scheme to lose even that at present.

Again owing to the urgent immediate demands for scientific manpower in other projects, England has not been represented to anything like the extent that would have been desirable. Thus it seems wrong to allow the dispersal of the inadequate British manpower resources on the job at present.

Further there is the question of American sensitiveness to the Pacific War. The view is held that it would be diplomatically wrong to cease the present arrangement immediately the European War is over.

As far as I can gather the kind of program that is envisaged is that I should probably remain here through the earlier months of next year and afterwards probably go to England for a time.

Of course I well understand my obligations to the University and to Martin personally to return when practicable to take my part in the re-building of the Melbourne laboratory, particularly from the research angle. I feel however that in the long run the interests of the University would be better served by my remaining longer on this job.

I felt I should write to let you know of my position in respect to these matters. I am writing also to Medley [7] and Martin to explain the position to them.

I am still finding the work here most interesting. I am now stationed in the 'deep South' and living conditions are not as comfortable as at Berkeley. However one must hand it to the Americans to have built a considerable city where 18 months ago was virgin forest. It appears likely I may be returning to Berkeley later. An additional reason for my looking forward to the arrival of the family is that accommodation for families here is much more comfortable than for single men.


1 Not located.

2 Not located. Dr L. H. Martin was Associate Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, seconded to C.S.I.R.

3 Professor James Chadwick.

4 i.e. the Anglo-American program to develop an atomic bomb.

5 Presumably Sir John Anderson, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer.

6 Not located.

7 Either Professor John Medley, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne or David Medley, Officer-in-Charge, R.A.N. Radar Laboratory.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History