ANU pays tribute to science pioneer and educator Mike Gore

Professor Mike Gore. Image: ANU

The Australian National University (ANU) and the wider science community is mourning the loss of passionate science educator and visionary, Questacon founder and ANU physics lecturer Professor Michael Gore AO.

Driven by a desire to share his love of science with others and a determination to make science fun, Professor Gore was integral in shaping the science communication landscape in Australia.

It was his love of teaching and attitude toward science - a recognition that science is best communicated through hands-on and experimental learning - that led to the creation of Australia's first interactive science centre, Questacon. His vision was to provide a fun and educational experience to inspire young Australians and the general public to pursue a career in the sciences.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt says Professor Gore inspired us all to dream big and think beyond the limitations of what's possible. 

"Professor Gore's passion for science and teaching was infectious. He never stopped wanting to empower and encourage others through science and he will be dearly missed by so many," Professor Schmidt says.

"His work promoting greater awareness of science through a unique lens, a belief that we should approach science with curiosity, wonder and fun, has inspired generations of Australians to pursue their dreams."

Professor Joan Leach, Director of the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS), says the passing of Professor Gore left a gaping hole in the Australian and international science community.

"Mike was committed to sharing insights from the Australian experience and gaining knowledge from around the world. He was always ready to try anything and never afraid to say 'I don't know, tell me about it'," Professor Leach says.

"He recognised that science is best communicated by addressing people's experience of the world and engaging them with hands-on activities. This core idea informed the founding of Questacon, but between idea and founding, however, was a number of years of hard work, organisation, and political advocacy for science communication."

Originally from Bolton, Lancashire in England, Professor Gore completed a PhD from Leeds University in electrical engineering in 1960. After a stint living and working in the United States, Professor Gore moved to Australia in 1962 after accepting a lectureship in physics at the ANU School of General Studies. He went on to teach physics at ANU for the next 25 years, and it soon became clear to Professor Gore that his love for teaching far outweighed his love for research. It was in 1975, during a trip to the science Exploratorium in San Francisco, when the idea for Questacon was born and his goal to educate and inspire future scientists was realised.

"From a hands-on set of exhibits at the ANU School of Physics to an enlarged space at Ainslie Primary School to the fabulous new building in the Parliamentary Triangle, Mike was determined that Australia was going to be on the leading edge of a new way of communicating science publicly," Professor Leach says.

 "One of Mike's biggest legacies is the more than 500 graduates of the Questacon Science Circus initiative, a partnership between ANU and Questacon."

Since its inception, the Science Circus has become one of the world's most travelled and recognised science outreach programmes. It has helped bring science to all parts of Australia, including rural and remote areas. Furthermore, Science Circus Africa and Science Circus Pacific are examples of how Professor Gore's work and contribution lives on overseas.

In addition, Professor Gore, with his colleague and friend the late Professor Chris Bryant, established The Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at ANU in 1995, which is now one of the largest centres in the world for research and education in science communication and is a further lasting contribution Professor Gore has made to ANU.

Professor Sue Stocklmayer worked closely with Professor Gore for 30 years and says he was an incredibly kind, funny and caring man who had a gift for enjoying life to the fullest.

"He had a fantastic sense of humour and could always see the funny side of life. I think the whole world is still in shock that Mike's no longer with us," she says.

"Mike was such an original and creative thinker and working with him was a privilege."

In 2015, Professor Gore was made an officer of the Order of Australia for his service to science communication. In February 2018, he was recognised for his contribution to physics at ANU with the naming of the Mike Gore Physics Education Precinct in the Research School of Physics and Engineering.

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