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Ernest Frederick John Love (1861–1929)

by R. W. Home

This article was published:

Ernest Frederick John Love (1861-1929), physicist, was born on 31 October 1861 at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, eldest son of John Henry Love, surgeon, and his wife Emily, née Serle. Later the family moved to Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, where Love and his two brothers—one of whom, Augustus E. H. Love, was to win great renown as a mathematician—attended Wolverhampton Grammar School. All three are said to have been very reserved, taking little if any part in school life outside their work.

Love matriculated at the University of Cambridge in 1879 as a sizar at St John's College and was elected a scholar two years afterwards. As an undergraduate he studied experimental physics in the Cavendish Laboratory, obtaining second-class honours in the natural sciences tripos examinations in 1883. He then worked as demonstrator in physics at Mason College, Birmingham, (later the University of Birmingham) and published several papers on experimental physics, the two most ambitious of which unfortunately attracted fairly damning criticism.

In February 1888 Love was appointed to the University of Melbourne as assistant lecturer and demonstrator in natural philosophy, a new position associated with the university's introduction of separate degrees in science. Soon after his arrival he found himself in charge of his department, Professor H. M. Andrew, having taken leave of absence. Following Andrew's death, Love applied for the vacant chair but lost to (Sir) Thomas Lyle with whom he was to share responsibility for all teaching of natural philosophy in the university for many years.

Love joined the Royal Society of Victoria in 1889 and published regularly in its Proceedings. During the 1890s he persuaded the society to attempt a gravity survey of Australasia and himself undertook precision determinations of the gravitational acceleration at Melbourne and Sydney. He returned to geodetic questions in 1922-29 as founding secretary of the Australian National Research Council's national committee for geodesy and geophysics.

He was also active in the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, serving as local secretary for Victoria in 1893-1904, as a member of several specialist committees, and as president of section A at the 1907 Adelaide congress where his presidential address dealt with another lifelong interest, the thermodynamics of electrolytic processes. In 1908 the University of Melbourne awarded him a D.Sc. for his collected thermodynamical publications. An interest in astronomy had seen him elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1895; he was also president of the Victorian branch of the British Astronomical Association in 1899-1903. Late in life Love developed expertise in acoustics, and his advice was sought by architects responsible for several major public buildings, including the Melbourne Town Hall.

Love never married. A member of the Anglican synod, he lived in Queen's College at the university as a fellow and tutor until 1896 when he took up residence at Coburg with his unmarried sister. Recurring bouts of 'nerve fatigue and exhaustion' beginning about 1915 eventually led to a reduced teaching load. He retired in 1927, when he presented his valuable library to the university, and died at Coburg on 9 March 1929. He was buried in Fawkner cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Royal Astronomical Society, Monthly Notice, 90 (1930), p 373
  • Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 3 (1941), p 467
  • Herald (Melbourne), 9 Mar 1929
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Mar 1929
  • University of Melbourne Archives.

Citation details

R. W. Home, 'Love, Ernest Frederick John (1861–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 October, 1861
Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, England


9 March, 1929 (aged 67)
Coburg, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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