Physics opens doors
Looking back, Dr Peter Brooker is grateful for the opportunities a University of Adelaide education in physics gave him. Now Peter is paying tribute to his education and encouraging Australia’s next generation of physicists through the Peter Brooker Prize in Physics.
The inaugural recipient of the prize, Mitchell Richardson, is an Adelaide local and was the 2019 dux of Trinity College.
I chose to study physics at university because I enjoy understanding the behaviour of the world. Someday, I would like to contribute to this understanding. Mitchell Richardson
In receiving the Peter Brooker Prize in Physics, Mitchell said, "it has been an affirmation of my decision, as it has shown me I am in the right place. It has certainly motivated me to continue this field of study, and to aim for similar levels of achievement in the future."
Mitchell’s path to studying physics at the University echoes Peter’s, who recalls mathematics and physics were his favourite subjects at school. Peter reflected on how far physics had come since the early days of the University. In those days, the Elder Professor of Mathematics also had responsibility for physics. The second of these is perhaps the most celebrated Adelaide physicist, the Nobel Laureate William Bragg who commenced in 1886. At the time Bragg was a young Cambridge mathematics graduate and read his first physics on the voyage to Adelaide.
By the mid-1960s, when Peter began his PhD in Mathematical Physics with Professor Bert Green, the subject had blossomed as the following associates of Green testify. Max Born was Green's PhD supervisor at Edinburgh, and he completed post-doctoral studies at Princeton with Albert Einstein and then in Dublin with Erwin Schrodinger; all three Nobel Laureates in Physics.
After completing his PhD in Kinetic Theory, solving Boltzmann’s Equation, Peter went on to lecture and travel internationally before returning to the University of Adelaide to lecture mathematical geology and geophysics.
One of his fondest memories is being presented with the ‘Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Excellence in Teaching’ in 1995 by his former Physics I lecturer, Dr Harry Medlin, who was then Deputy Chancellor. Peter retired from the University in 2002.
In addition to funding a further prize in geophysics, Peter, a tertiary music graduate, also generously supports the arts. In 2021 he established two endowed prizes for classical music students graduating from the Elder Conservatorium of Music, the Peter Brooker Prizes for Musical Excellence.
In awarding Mitchell the inaugural Peter Brooker Prize in Physics, Peter wished him well. "It is my pleasure to present the first Physics II award to Mitchell. I hope he finds his choice of physics leads to many wonderful opportunities.”