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Ronald (Ron) Charles Garvie [1930-1991]

Early life

Ron was born on 14 June 1930 and was educated in Canada. He previously worked with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, the Canadian Department or Mines and Technical Surveys, the United States Bureau of Mines, Corning Glass Works and McMaster University.

Time at CSIRO

Ron joined the Engineering Ceramics and Refractories Laboratory of the Division of Tribophysics (as it was known then) early in 1972.

He was recruited to CSIRO by the late Neil McKinnon to boost the Division’s new research program on zirconia ceramics. His efforts and those of his co-workers were quickly rewarded with
spectacular success – the discovery of transformation toughening in partially stabilised zirconia ceramics. His seminal Nature paper Ceramic Steel? published in 1975 (with co-authors Richard Hannink and the late Terry Pascoe) marked one of the most significant achievements yet made in the science and technology of engineering ceramics, and was a major turning point in the strengthening and toughening of ceramics. It led directly to the present Nilcra PSZ advanced ceramic manufacturing operation and indirectly to the local production of zirconia powders by Z-Tech. both activities now forming part of ICI Advanced Ceramics. It also put Australian advanced ceramic research on the international map in a way never before achieved.

For their development of PSZ ceramics, Ron Garvie, Richard Hannink and Terry Pascoe were awarded the Victorian Branch Ceramic Achievement Award in 1984.

The development of PSZ sparked a series or international conferences on the Science and Technology of Zirconia, beginning In 1980. Ron was on the Organising Committee for the first three and his pivotal role in modern zirconia ceramic technology was well recognised by his appointment as Chairman of Zirconia V, the fifth International Conference on the Science and Technology of Zirconia, and was held in Melbourne in August 1992. Sadly, he was not be here to receive the plaudits that must have come. Through the 1970s and ’80s Ron continued his love affair with zirconia, devoting himself to studies on the thermodynamics and mechanism of the tetragonal/monoclinic phase change that is at the heart of transformation toughening and, in later years, to exploring novel ideas for using zirconia to improve the mehanical properties of refractory bodies. Despite surgery in early 1991, he continued an active involvement with his research team, maintaining contact by fax when eventually he became too weak to travel to work. He continued communicating to within days of his death.

Ron was a stimulating and enjoyable companion with a vigorous and inquiring mind. He delighted in challenge and competition. He had a great love for CSlRO and often credited the Organisation with providing the right blend of scientific and industrial stimulation for his work.

Honours and awards

1984 Victorian Branch Ceramic Achievement Award


Adapted from a submission by M. J. Bannister to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter (no. 343, September 1991), p. 4