Skip to content

Dr. Stanley G. Tomlin

Stanley G. Tomlin

Born: September 30, 1916
Died: May 14, 1990

Heysen Chapel 18 May 1990

The Obituary also appeared in the'Australian Physicist' Vol.27 No.9 p.18S Sep. 1990 and in King's College London Spring 1991 Edition of 'In Touch' p.2S.

Doreen, John, Margaret, absent family, dear friends and colleagues.

My name is Harry Medlin. Quite recently Stan sought and received an assurance from me on four matters to be arranged for this occasion today.

First, that I would speak on this occasion for ten or so minutes and say what was appropriate in all the circumstances.

Secondly, that this occasion was to be conducted in an entirely secular manner.

Thirdly, that I should assure all of you of his deep desire that no-one should feel any unease or discomfort in that respect.

I shall return to the fourth matter later.

Stanley Gordon Tomlin was born on the 30th. of September 1916 at Burnham-on- Crouch in Essex, England He was a most unusual man; among many other things he was at once both English and Australian.

Stan was a brilliant student. He moved from place to place with his parents; he and Doreen met at the Co-Educational High School in Harwich and he went to King's College of The University of London on an Essex County Scholarship. He graduated in June 1937 after only two years of undergraduate study with First Class Honours in Physics. Indeed he was awarded the prestigious Granville Studentship for the most distinguished student in Physics from all the Colleges of The University of London.

Stan's PhD. studies were interrupted by the Second World War (1939-1955). He worked on Radar and had some contact with Mark Oliphant. He was however able to complete his PhD. part-time and this was conferred in 1945 and he returned to King's College as a Lecturer in Physics where he developed some skills in, among many other things, the handling of ex-service students.

Stan and Doreen were married in June 1940 in Canterbury. John was born in 1942 and Anne in 1944. Deborah and Robert joined the family much later.

Stan changed his research to Biophysics at King's in 1946. It was because of Anne that the family sought suitable work in a dry climate. Stan's services were sought to establish a new research group in The University of Adelaide. With superb references from five most distinguished physicists he moved to Adelaide as one of the most brilliant scientists to migrate after the War. He had already made fundamental contributions to two quite distinct areas of physics, namely in radar technology where he won an Inventor' Awards and in electron microscopy for his work on the then new science of cell membrane structure. I offer three comments, among many similar, from his Referees Reports.

  1. "Both as a teacher and a researcher Dr Tomlin is first class."
  2. "He is quiet in manner and absolutely reliable."
  3. "He is not easily deflected from an established plan of work."

Dr Tomlin established a research group and he personally supervised research work that led to eleven Master's degrees and twenty five PhD's. The projects covered an enormous range and variety of subjects. It can be said that his primary interest was in electrons and in their interactions with electromagnetic fields of various sorts and accordingly in the electrical and optical properties of solids in bulk and in thin films and whether amorphous, poly-crystalline or crystalline and whether biological, insulating, semi-conducting, or conducting both electrically and thermally. Dr Tomlin was an exacting and imaginative experimentalist. He also made fundamental theoretical and algebraical contributions to physics particularly in electron diffusion in solids, the optical constants of thin films, and, in collaboration with his son John, in urban dynamics. He was a Fellow of the b1stitute of Physics and he was awarded the distinguished degree of Doctor of Science from The University of London over twenty years ago in 1970 for his research work.

It was Dr Tomlin who gave the first sophisticated courses in the Physics Department of The University of Adelaide in those areas of physics that used to be called Modern Physics. I refer to thermal physics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, solid-state physics and the like. In addition he was very sound in the three great areas of Classical Physics, namely Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Electromagnetism.

He had been promoted to Reader in Physics in 1953. He served in that capacity for many years and on the University's Faculty of Science and he was a most respected Chairman of its Research and Higher Degrees Committee.

Because of this collection of attributes in experimental and theoretical physics and in the classical and post-classical domains, it is my firmly held and often expressed personal opinion that Dr Tomlin remains the best all-round physicist ever to have served The University of Adelaide. It was, in my personal opinion, a serious oversight that he was not given a Personal Chair in Physics.

Further, Dr Tomlin served during an interregnum as Acting Head of the Physics Department from 1959 through 1960 and for the first two terms of 1961. It was during that time that the Department developed the principles of what is now known as Departmental Government, ten years before the Council gave its tacit support to the practice and twenty years before the embedding of the principles and practices in the Statutes of the University. By the time that the Elder Chair was re-occupied in the third term of 1961 the much¬ cherished principles of democratic collegial government, now espoused and indeed claimed by others, had already been developed and put in place. Dr Tomlin was a man who in some respects was perhaps somewhat too far ahead of his times.

Dr Tomlin was also interested in and contributed to the history and scholarship of physics. He wrote the history of the first 75 years of Physics at The University of Adelaide (1874-1949). In addition to his many research publications he had three historical contributions in the Australian Physicist in 1975, 1976 and 1977. He was also the official biographer for the two Braggs, Professors Sir William and Sir Laurence, Nobel Laureates, in Volume 7 (1979) of that great scholarly work, the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Stan Tomlin retired from the tenured service of the University at the end of1981. He used his all-too-short retirement to maintain and to promote his quality of life. He devoted himself to his family; to Doreen, to John and Simi and he obviously adored his granddaughter Julia. He maintained those special associations with close friends. He pursued his great life¬time loves of reading, of music, of sport and of exercise, of scholarly disputation and of those other activities to which his superb brain and mind pre-disposed him.

Dr Tomlin was a most cultivated man and from humble origins. He experienced great joy and he also experienced great sadness and this he bore with stoic fortitude. He was one of the most private of people and yet perhaps somewhat paradoxically his great character did shine through. His honesty, his integrity and the honourable discharge of all his duties, his exquisite sense of the fitness of things and his personal warmth and charm made him a dear friend to all of us.

We will all miss him greatly but Doreen most of all and also John.

If I may anglicize those words of Catullus "And forever, brother, hail and farewell."

Ladies and Gentlemen, fourthly and finally Stan wanted you to hear this recording which he made for the occasion of 'The Slow Movement of Mozart's Concerto for Clarinet '.


By Harry Medlin

Related Documents for Dr Stanley Tomlin

School of Physical Sciences

School of Physical Sciences
Physics Building


T: +61 8 8313 5996
F: +61 8 8313 4380

Student Enquiries

Call +61 8 8313 5673

(Monday - Friday: 9am – 5pm)

Search the Knowledge Base