Right beside Adelaide’s Venere di Canova there is an area of low palms in which can be found the busts of four prominent South Australians. My particular admiration lies with the untitled Mary Lee.
Mary Lee (1821 – 1909)
Lee was born in Ireland in 1821 and came to Australia in 1879 where she worked tirelessly to relieve the misery and hardship endured by many, especially women, during the late 1880s and early 1890s. She vigorously campaigned for women’s suffrage as secretary of the Woman’s Suffrage League of South Australia and was equally admired and hated by people from both sexes for her work.
The bust, by sculptor Patricia Moseley, was erected on 18 December 1994 on the centenary of the passage of Constitutional amendments giving woman the right to vote, and stand for Parliament. South Australia was the second place in the world to grant women the right to vote (New Zealand was the first) and the first to permit them to stand for parliament.
The plaque below the bust, a quote from Lee, clearly articulates her aim in life:
‘My aim is to leave the world better for women than I found it’
Sir Lawrence Bragg (1890 -1971) – picture 3
Bragg, born in Adelaide, was Australia’s first Nobel Laureate – physics 1915 – for his work, with his father, on the analysis of crystal structures by means of X-rays. At the time Bragg was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize. This bust (by John Mills and one of six cast) was erected in 2012 to commemorate the centenary of Bragg’s explanation of X-ray diffraction.
The Honorable Sir Mellis Napier (1882-1976) – picture 4
Napier, born in Scotland, was Lieutenant Governor of South Australia from 1947 to 1973, Chief Justice from 1942 to 1967, and Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1948 to 1961. These are the most notable of his many positions and accolades.
Napier’s bust, by sculptor, John Dowie, was unveiled on the 2 July 1970.
Sir Mark Oliphant (1901 – 2000)
Oliphant, an accomplished academic and scientist, was Governor of South Australia from 1971 – 76.
On the scientific front he is best known for his contribution to sub-atomic physics. He discovered the nuclei of Helium 3 and Tritium and that heavy hydrogen nuclei could be made to react with each other – nuclear fusion, the basis for a hydrogen bomb.
In late 1943 he worked on the Manhattan Project in the US where his contribution proved invaluable in the production of enriched uranium for the first atomic bombs. While he later expressed great pride in the fact that the bomb had worked he was ‘absolutely appalled at what it had done to human beings’ and spoke out against nuclear weapons.
During the 1960s he was vocal in his opposition to the Vietnam War.
This bust, another by John Dowie, was erected in 1978 in recognition of his service to the public.
Address: Price Henry Gardens, North Terrace
Directions: Between King William Road and Kintore Street