Alan James William Moore [1920-2005]

By September 6th, 2018

Early life

Alan Moore was born in Melbourne in 1920 and educated at Scotch College and the University of Melbourne where he completed a science degree majoring in metallurgy and chemistry.

War-time research

Alan Moore joined the Lubricants and Bearings Section of CSIR on 8 December 1941, just two days prior to this 21st birthday and, as he recalled, two days prior to the sinking of HMS Repulse and HMS Renown off the coast of Malaya. This was the second year of World War II and the CSIR Section that Alan joined was a wartime venture brought about through the appointment of Dr Philip Bowden in November, 1939, to establish CSIR Laboratory to carry out research into and development of bearings for aircraft engines, and lubricants in general. Alan’s appointment following his completion of a BSc at Melbourne University met Dr Bowden’s immediate need for a Metallurgist/Chemist.

Towards the end of the war Philip Bowden returned to his teaching post in Cambridge where he set about establishing, within the Physical Chemistry Department, a laboratory called initially the Physics and Chemistry of Rubbing Solids (PCRS) and later the Physics and Chemistry of Solids (PCS). In 1945, Alan was invited together with several of his colleagues at Lubricants and Bearings to assist in this task. After several years with Bowden he was awarded a Cambridge PhD with a thesis on the deformation of rubbing solids.

Wide-ranging research

Back in Melbourne, Lubricants and Bearings had by this time gained a new leader, Dr Stewart Bastow (later to become a member of the CSIRO Executive), and had been renamed Tribophysics. The section, soon to be granted Divisional status, was to have its own laboratory built on the campus at Melbourne University and opened in the early 1950s. The Division of Tribophysics became in the late 1970s the present Division of Materials Science.

Following his return to Melbourne at the end of 1947, Alan Moore worked successively on the recrystallisation of zinc (with Geoff Brandon), the influence of hardness on friction (with Greg Tegart), and the thermal etchings of silver (with Ernie Hondros).

Alan worked in many areas concerned with surface problems but what became a prolonged interest with a most successful and satisfying outcome was his modelling of crystal surfaces – work carried out in conjunction with John Nicholas and Jock MacKenzie. The precise characterisation of crystal surfaces in terms of either ‘broken bonds’ or residual nearest neighbours was an important aspect of the physics and chemistry of solid surfaces. This related to the growing interest in surfaces within Tribophysics wirth subsequent emphasis on studies of epitaxy, adsorption, desorption and catalysis. This work led Alan to consider the nature of this microscopic hemispherical needle tips that could be ‘imaged’ (with atomic resolution) by the technique of field ion microscopy that was burgeoning at the start of the 1960s.

His computer simulation of the field-ion atomic patterns obtained experimentally were painstakingly carried out on the CSIRAC¬†computer with its 1K memory! Alan’s interest in this field was maintained up to the time of his retirement in September 1982 so that the award of a Royal Society grant to spend 1982/83 at the Metallurgy and Science of Materials Department at Oxford University to work with Dr George Smith on computer programming for a field ion atom problems gave him continuing satisfaction in his favourite field of studies.

Enthusiastic researcher

Alan Moore’s life at CSIR/CSIRO involved him in many areas of research and other activities. He showed great enthusiasm in all of these ventures – an enthusiasm which was not dampened even when faced with the daunting task of acting over a number of years as the Divisional representative or representative contact person form the planning and construction off the proposed Material Science Laboratory complex at Clayton.

His valuable work on the Engineering Group and Welding Research Committees should be mentioned as well as his four years as Chairman of the Solid State Division of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. Finally, his overwhelming interest in the wide application of computers drew him into the area of computer assistance to disabled persons and into the development of programs that might be useful for those handicapped people whose communication is limited to the manipulation of several keys or levers.

Honours and awards

1948 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) completed at the University of Cambridge
1970 Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI)


Adapted from a submission by John Spink to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter¬†(no. 256, October 1982), p. 4

Further reading