Professor Michael Gore AO, founder of the national science institution Questacon, dies in Canberra


Professor Michael Gore AO, founder of the national scientific institution Questacon, has died in Canberra at the age of 87.

While working as a professor of physics at Australian National University (ANU), Professor Gore came up with the idea of ​​creating an educational science center that children and families could visit.

He became the founding director of Questacon, inspiring budding scientists across the country with his enthusiasm and passion for science.

Professor Gore’s granddaughters, Charlotte and Isabella, told the ABC that their grandfather “loved to teach.”

“He shared his love of science with everyone he could, and it brought him joy,” they said.

“Despite an incredible life, he was always proud of the accomplishments of others.

“[He] share [his] love science with so many people, and we are all so grateful. “

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From England to ANU

Professor Gore was an only child, born in 1934 in Bolton, Lancashire, England.

He traveled to Australia at the end of his university studies in 1962, when he accepts a position as a lecturer at ANU at the School of General Studies.

Shortly after arriving in Australia, he married Joyce Klaber, a literature student he met during a post-doctoral stint at Brown University, and they had three children.

Originally from England, Professor Gore married and raised his family in Canberra, where he lived until his death in 2022.(Provided)

However, it was a day spent in San Francisco in 1975, while living abroad with his family, that planted the seed of Questacon.

Professor Gore was inspired by a Kid-Friendly Science Exploratorium where he and his family spent hours, and when he returned to Canberra in 1977 he was bursting with ideas to create something similar.

Mike Gore sits in front of the periodic table
ANU Professor Mike Gore developed Australia’s first interactive science center inspired by the San Francisco Exploratorium.(Provided: Questacon)

Thus, in the old unused building of the Ainslie public school in 1980, the first iteration of Questacon took shape as an ANU project, composed of volunteers and containing only 15 practical exhibits.

The installation was a success, attracting thousands of visitors to ACT from across Australia each year.

Shortly thereafter, a committee of specialists was appointed to investigate the validity of establishing a national science and technology center as an enduring memorial to Australia’s bicentennial in 1988.

Parliament approved the proposal and the Japanese government agreed to donate one billion yen for the construction of a new building.

Professor Gore was appointed founding director and Questacon received a new home.

Professor Gore’s legacy

Questacon in Canberra.  Taken on September 04, 2013.
Professor Gore secured funding from the Australian Schools Commission to create what we now know as Questacon.(ABC News: Penny McLintock)

Professor Gore resigned from ANU in 1987 to lead Questacon full-time from its new purpose-built headquarters in the parliamentary area of ​​Canberra.

Its doors – on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin – opened to the public in November 1988, and the building now offers more than 200 hands-on experiences.

A man kisses a woman while holding a small medal.
Professor Gore, pictured here with his wife Joyce, received the Churchill Prize in 1983.(Provided)

More than 500,000 people visit Questacon each year, and the traveling scientific circus of Questacon – which has been operational since 1985 – still exists to this day.

The secret to making science fun, Professor Gore said, was to “project the enthusiasm through your voice, through what you say and how you say it.”

Professor Gore resigned from Questacon in 1999 to become an assistant professor at the ANU Center for Public Awareness of Science, which he founded in 1995.

He was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honors 2015, for “distinguished service to science through a range of national and international public awareness, communication and education initiatives, and as a mentor and role model for young scientists”.

Current Questacon director Graham Durant described Professor Gore as a “great guy” who was “incredibly generous with his time”.

“Mike’s core philosophy is the foundation for everything we do here and what we stand for, and we’ve been true to that philosophy.”


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