Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Stanley Rogers (1893–1977)

by R. W. Home

This article was published:

James Stanley Rogers (1893-1977), physicist, was born on 18 June 1893 at Beaconsfield, Tasmania, eldest of nine children of native-born parents James Rogers, Methodist clergyman, and his wife Agnes, née Caldwell. John David Rogers was his brother. With the father being called to a new parish every five years, the family moved regularly. James received his secondary education in Victoria, at the Bendigo Continuation School (dux 1910). In 1911 he entered the Melbourne Training College and the University of Melbourne (B.A., Dip.Ed., 1919; B.Sc., 1921; M.Sc., 1922; D.Sc., 1945). He completed his B.A. while teaching (1913-15) at country high schools.

On 25 June 1915 Rogers enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He sailed for Egypt and joined the 14th Battalion which was transferred to the Western Front in June 1916. Rising rapidly through the ranks, he was selected for staff duties in January 1917 and promoted captain in April. For his work in June-August at headquarters, 4th Division, during operations around Messines, Belgium, he was awarded the Military Cross. He served as brigade major with the 3rd (British) Tank Brigade before returning to Melbourne where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 5 October 1919. Resuming his teaching career, he also undertook the additional subjects needed to complete a degree in science. In March 1921 he resigned from the teaching service to do a master's degree in natural philosophy under T. H. Laby who became a powerful patron. On 12 July 1922 at the Presbyterian Church, Kew, he married Hazel Carr.

Having been awarded an 1851 Exhibition science research scholarship, Rogers sailed with his wife for England. On Laby's recommendation he was admitted as a research student to the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. He embarked on a Ph.D., measuring the ranges of alpha particles emitted from various radioactive substances. After only two years, with his research still in an unsatisfactory state, he returned to the University of Melbourne to take up a senior lectureship which Laby had offered him. He continued his study of radioactive emissions, with better results, and in 1925 won the university's David Syme prize for research. When he submitted his work to Cambridge, however, the examiners deemed it insufficient to rescue his Ph.D., and awarded him an M.Sc. (1928) instead.

Over the next few years Rogers continued his investigations into radioactive emissions. He carried out ground-breaking work on photographic measuring techniques for gamma rays and published a handful of papers for which he was eventually awarded a D.Sc. His real strength was his teaching. In particular, he taught for many years an outstandingly successful course in physics for first-year medical students. The textbook he wrote, Physics for Medical Students (1933), enjoyed several editions. Firm but sympathetic in his approach to students, he was able to win respect at the same time as he aroused interest in his subject.

During World War II, while continuing his teaching, Rogers served as secretary and executive-officer of the Optical Munitions Panel (later Scientific Instruments and Optical Panel) which pioneered the production of precision optical equipment in Australia. His unpublished history of the organization is held by the National Archives of Australia. In 1946 he became warden of the university's branch campus at Mildura. Returning to Melbourne in early 1950, he was appointed dean of graduate studies and warden of overseas students. In 1963 he retired. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, he died on 23 July 1977 at Heidelberg and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. W. Home, Physics in Australia to 1945 (Melb, 1990)
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, Dec 1977, p 15.

Citation details

R. W. Home, 'Rogers, James Stanley (1893–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 June, 1893
Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Australia


23 July, 1977 (aged 84)
Heidelberg, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.