Maurice Francis Robinson Mulcahy [1920-2020]

By Helen WolffSeptember 6th, 2018


Maurice literally entered CSIRO with a bang, his early research being devoted to the detonation of nitro-glycerine under impact. The retention of his limbs was ample testimony to his experimental ability. Whether his calm, unruffled exterior owed its existence to the need for caution during these dangerous experiments or to lazy afternoons on the Isis is a matter for conjecture. However it was at Oxford, where he was awarded a D.Phil. for his research under that doyen of physical chemists the late Sir Cyril Hinshelwood, that Maurice brought his absorbing interest in chemical kinetics to fruition, an interest first nurtured in the Chemistry Department at the University of Melbourne.

As a physical chemist, Maurice was able to apply his knowledge to diverse areas. From the Division of Tribophysics, he travelled north to Sydney where, as a member of Coal Research, he undertook pioneering work on coal combustion and on the kinetics of atomic and free-radical reactions. This knowledge equipped him to lead research on photochemical smog and urban haze aimed at making this fair city even fairer. In the late 70s coal, for so long out of fashion, became desirable once more, and there formation of the Division of Fossil Fuels saw Maurice as Assistant Chief, able to impart the wealth of his experience to researchers on atmospheric science, coal chemistry and coal combustion, to mention but a few of the major activities of the Division. He was elected as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences in 1980.

Honours and awards

1948 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) completed at Oxford University, UK
1971 Doctor of Science (DSc) received from Oxford University
1980 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE)


Adapted from a submission by Tony Bradshaw to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter (no. 263, July 1983), p. 3

Further information