Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Bogle, Gilbert Stanley (1924–1963)

by Cameron Hazlehurst

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Gilbert Stanley Bogle (1924-1963), physicist, was born on 5 January 1924 at Wanganui, New Zealand, fourth child of Archibald Hugh Bogle, licensed surveyor, and his wife Bertha Isabel Langley, née Reeve, both New Zealanders. Educated at Wanganui Collegiate School, in 1942 Gilbert entered Victoria University College, Wellington (M.Sc., 1946), to read physics. Although Bogle was eligible for war service in 1945, Professor D. C. H. Florance persuaded the manpower authorities to allow him to remain at university where he was directed to work as an assistant in the laboratory and to extend his honours course over two years.

A talented musician and linguist who was active in student affairs, Bogle went to England in 1947 as a Rhodes scholar and entered Oriel College, Oxford (B.A. Hons, 1949; D.Phil., 1952). Under A. H. Cooke of New College, he worked for two years at the Clarendon laboratory on paramagnetic resonance experiments at very low temperatures and published the results in a series of jointly-authored articles in the Proceedings of the Physical Society (London, 1951-55). Bogle's mentors noted that, 'for an experimenter', he had 'an unusually good grasp of the theoretical side'. Nicholas Kurti commended the quality of his research and the speed with which he completed his doctoral thesis which was used by students for several years as 'a kind of textbook'.

On 11 September 1950 at the parish church, Great Dunmow, Essex, Bogle married Vivienne Mary Rich, a schoolteacher and fellow graduate of Victoria University College; they were to have four children, one of whom was born after Gilbert's death. From July 1952 Bogle lectured in physics at the University of Otago, New Zealand, where he established what Florance described as quite a 'Bogle school of low temperature research'. His achievements in research and teaching brought him a senior lectureship in September 1955, but he was outgrowing Otago. 'I think that he is to some extent wasting his abilities there', wrote Cooke. Bogle had applied for a position as senior research officer in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization's division of physics at the National Standards Laboratory, Sydney. His referees' support was warm and unequivocal: Kurti remembered him as 'a real live wire if ever there was one'.

Appointed for three years from 5 September 1956, Bogle began work with the cryogenics group. By October 1957 he had been given an 'indefinite appointment'. G. H. Briggs, chief of the division, found the new recruit 'noteworthy for his mental powers, his breadth of knowledge, his capacity for original ideas, his drive and enthusiasm, his range of experimental techniques and his outstanding ability as a lecturer'. Believing Bogle to be 'too good a man to tie down to work which did not offer him much scope for his special abilities', Briggs encouraged him to resume his research on paramagnetic resonance.

In recommending Bogle for accelerated advancement, Briggs drew attention to the link between his work and the recent development of maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) technology. Bogle's theoretical and practical contribution to the production of a 21-cm maser amplifier for use in radio astronomy earned him high praise from Briggs's successor Ronald Giovanelli who, in 1960, successfully urged his reclassification as principal research officer. By 1962 Bogle was regarded by his chief as 'the most brilliant member of the staff'. Meanwhile, Bogle had been offered a two-year appointment in 'quantum electronics' at the Bell Telephone Research Laboratories, New Jersey, United States of America. C.S.I.R.O. granted him leave of absence.

On 21 December 1962, shortly before Bogle and his family were due to leave for the U.S.A., he met Margaret Olive Chandler, née Morphett (1934-1963), at a Christmas party. Born on 2 April 1934 at Wentworthville, New South Wales, Margaret became a nurse and, on 24 December 1957 at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, married Geoffrey Arnold Chandler, a scientific photographer employed by C.S.I.R.O. Five years later, a housebound mother of two, she was immediately attracted to the engaging 'Gib' Bogle. Encouraged by her husband, she needed little persuading to accept Bogle's offer of a lift home from a New Year's Eve party at Chatswood, to which Bogle had ensured the Chandlers were invited. Some time between 4.45 a.m. and 6.00 a.m. on 1 January 1963 Bogle and Margaret Chandler died in bushland on the eastern bank of the Lane Cove River, near Fullers Bridge, Chatswood.

The discovery of the bodies some 40 feet (12 m) apart—both half-naked, but Bogle's discreetly draped with folded clothing and a piece of carpet, and Chandler's in greater disarray, covered by cardboard cartons—created a mystery that remains unsolved. Baffled police, forensic scientists and the coroner J. J. Loomes were unable to determine what had caused their deaths. While poison seemed the most likely cause, no toxic substance was detected. Was it murder, suicide or accident? Revelations of previous and concurrent infidelities by Bogle and the Chandlers, as well as the libertarianism of the Sydney 'Push' with which Geoffrey Chandler was associated, made the coronial inquiry and police investigations a media circus.

Chandler challenged popular assumptions of his guilt in a candid book, So You Think I Did It (Melbourne, 1969), but the police were more suspicious of Margaret Fowler, a scientifically-trained librarian. A jealous Fowler, for three years Bogle's lover, was a suspect against whom no evidence could be produced. She in turn apparently related the deaths in some way to chemical-warfare research. Both Fowler and Geoffrey Chandler later gave credence to never-substantiated allegations by Catherine Dalton, widow of G. C. J. Dalton, that her friend Bogle was assassinated when he was about to disclose Australian Atomic Energy Commission security leaks and American espionage improprieties in Australia. After Peter Wright (a former officer of Britain's M.I.5) claimed that an alleged Soviet spy Sir Roger Hollis had recommended Bogle to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, Chandler speculated that Bogle had been 'eliminated' as a Soviet agent.

Although discarded in the mid-1960s—along with theories of poisonous gas, dry ice, weed-killer, aphrodisiac and shellfish toxin—the favoured explanation by the late 1980s was death by an accidental overdose (self-administered or unwitting) of lysergic acid diethylamide (L.S.D.); the hallucinogen (supposed to have been produced clandestinely in a C.S.I.R.O. laboratory) would have been untraceable at the time. Bogle's burial in Northern Suburbs cemetery on 13 March 1963, Chandler's cremation two days later and the failure to preserve tissue samples from either body left their deaths a tantalizing enigma.

Select Bibliography

  • C. R. Dalton, Without Hardware (Canb, 1970)
  • S. Gardiner, The Commissioner Allan Story (Syd, 1973)
  • A. Sharpe, Crimes That Shocked Australia (Syd, 1982, 1987)
  • A. Atkinson (ed), Famous Court Cases (Syd, 1987)
  • B. Toohey and M. Wilkinson, The Book of Leaks (Syd, 1987)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, Jan-June 1963, 22 May 1989
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 27 Mar 1981
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 28 May 1989
  • CSIRO Archives (Canberra).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Cameron Hazlehurst, 'Bogle, Gilbert Stanley (1924–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bogle-gilbert-stanley-9534/text16789, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014