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Biographical entry Lyle, Thomas Ranken (1860 - 1944)


26 August 1860
Coleraine, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
31 March 1944
South Yarra, Victoria, Australia
Physicist and Mathematician


Thomas Lyle was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Melbourne from 1889 to 1914, sharing with his colleagues David Masson and Baldwin Spencer the responsibility of establishing the new science degree on a sound footing. His research on electrical power technology, particularly alternating currents and their associated magnetic effects, earned him considerable recognition. He was a pioneer of the use of X-rays in Australia. Lyle's wider role in public affairs included 40 years as Chairman of the Board of Visitors to the Melbourne Observatory, nearly 20 years as Commissioner of Victoria's State Electricity Commission, and his participation in the conference that resulted in the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology. Following his retirement from the University Lyle served as scientific advisor to the Navy Board and was active in attempts to establish a national laboratory for scientific research and a national system of engineering standards. Lyle was a member of the Australian National Research Council for over ten years and Chairman from 1929 to 1932. The Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal has been awarded by the Council (and later the Australian Academy of Science) since 1935 for outstanding achievement by a scientist in Australia for research in mathematics or physics.



Education - BA, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
1885 - 1886
Career position - Assistant lecturer in mathematics and mathematical physics, Catholic University College, Dublin, Ireland
Education - MA, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
1889 - 1914
Career position - Professor of Natural Philosophy, The University of Melbourne
1903 - 1944
Career Position - Chairman of the Board, Melbourne Observatory
1904 - 1914
Career position - Representative of the University of Melbourne, Victorian Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee
Education - ScD, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
1910 - 1934
Career position - Representative of the University of Melbourne, Victorian Council of Public Education
1912 - 1944
Award - Fellow, Royal Society, London
1914 - 1918
Career position - Scientific Advisor, Naval Board
1916 - 1933
Career position - Member of Council, University of Melbourne
1919 - 1929
Career position - Member, Australian National Research Council
1919 - 1937
Career position - Commissioner, State Electricity Commission
Award - Knight Bachelor (Kt)
1929 - 1932
Career position - President, Australian National Research Council

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Thomas Ranken Lyle - Records, 1896 - 1944, MS 024; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, University of Melbourne

  • Audio of interview with Thomas Rankin Lyle, P000585; Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, University of Melbourne. Details

Private hands (Lyle, T.R.)

  • Thomas Ranken Lyle - Records, 1860 - 1944; Private hands (Lyle, T.R.). Details

State Electricity Commission of Victoria Archives

  • Thomas Ranken Lyle - Records, 1919 - 1937; State Electricity Commission of Victoria Archives. Details

University of Adelaide, Physics Department

  • Thomas Ranken Lyle - Records, 1944, 85.174 (1426); University of Adelaide, Physics Department. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • Grant, Kerr, 'Obituary: Sir Thomas Ranken Lyle', Australian Journal of Science, 6 (6) (1944), 174-176. Details


Resource Sections

See also

McCarthy, G.J. and Helen Cohn