George Dionisios DracoulisDecember 19, 1944 — June 19, 2014
George Dracoulis, nuclear physicist par excellence, had a vibrant and charismatic personality. As a meticulous researcher, his results could be relied upon – if George had measured it, then you knew it was right. And he took his wit and wisdom outside the laboratory, becoming a respected science advisor to the Australian government.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1944, George pursued his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Melbourne, culminating in a nuclear physics PhD in 1970. After a three-year postdoctoral research position at the University of Manchester, UK, he returned to Australia in 1973 to take a research position at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the world’s largest tandem Van de Graaff heavy-ion accelerator was under construction. George played an integral, and soon leading, role in the accelerator’s development and exploitation as a research facility. George was Head of the ANU’s Department of Nuclear Physics from 1992 until his retirement in 2009. He established it as one of the most respected nuclear physics laboratories in the world.
In retirement, George continued as an indefatigable researcher, travelling the world to perform experiments and speak at conferences, until diagnosed with kidney cancer in March this year.
As well as having a network of friends and colleagues around the world, George enjoyed extended visits to the State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA, the Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, USA, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, USA, and the University of Surrey, UK.
The recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to nuclear physics, George was a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1997, receiving the Academy’s Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal in 2003 for outstanding contributions to our understanding of the structure of atomic nuclei. In 2004 he won the Walter Boas Medal of the Australian Institute of Physics for excellence in research in physics.
George made seminal contributions to the understanding of nuclear structure: the way that different nuclear shapes can coexist; the way that nuclear vibrations, especially octupole vibrations, can couple to neutron and proton excitations; and the way that metastable excited states, or isomers, can be used to probe nuclear spin and shape properties. He is renowned for the thoroughness of his experimental approach, combined with a deep physical understanding of nuclear phenomena.
George served as a member of the Australian Prime Minister’s Select Task Force on Uranium Mining, Processing & Nuclear Energy, in 2006. As Professor Emeritus, he remained very active in public education and he continued to engage with the media and in the public discussion of nuclear energy and matters related to nuclear technology. George also continued his nuclear physics research work until only a few weeks before he died on June 19.
George will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues around the world. He is survived by his wife, Bet, their three children, and two grandchildren.
Philip Walker (University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Andrew Stuchbery (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Filip Kondev (Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois, USA)
George Dionisios Dracoulis
The Canberra Times