Vale: Dr Peter Pockley

Dr Peter Pockley
Tuesday, 13 August, 2013

Dr Peter Pockley, a pioneer of science writing, broadcasting and commentating in Australia, and a former UNSW staff member, has died at the age of 78.

He was the first scientist to work as a full-time journalist in Australia, founding the ABC’s Science unit in 1964. Between 1973 and 1989 he was head of the Public Affairs Unit at UNSW.

Robyn Williams, presenter of The Science Show on ABC Radio National and a member of the Advisory Council of UNSW Science, paid tribute to his former colleague and mentor.

“He helped put science on the map. What he was pioneering was science everywhere for everybody,” Mr Williams said.

One of the highlights of Dr Pockley’s long career was as the producer and on-air host for the ABC’s coverage of the Apollo missions. His broadcast of the Moon landing can still be heard online.

He wrote for many newspaper and magazines, including as senior columnist for Australasian Science magazine, and he was Australian correspondent for the journal Nature for many years.

A school teacher who later gained a Doctorate of Philosophy in the geology department of the University of Oxford, he also recorded lengthy biographical interviews with many leading Australian scientists for the National Library of Australia.

In 2010 he was the first and only journalist so far to be awarded the prestigious Academy Medal from the Australian Academy of Science, for advancing the cause of science in Australia.

He died peacefully at home, while sitting in the sun, on August 11. He is survived by his wife Jenny, daughter Kate and three grandchildren.

The Academy Medal citation is available here and Australasian Science has published an obituary here.