Wednesday, January 30, 2008

French scientists in Australia

My friend Eric Bouvet, a French lecturer at Flinders University and interpreter of the music of Georges Brassens, has been researching French immigration to South Australia. There were a few winemakers, of course .... and a few women of indeterminate profession if you take my meaning. (Of course they horrified the bourgeoisie of strait-laced 19th C Adelaide). Interestingly, in the postwar period, Australia was desperately trying to get French people to migrate. Few did: there were Francophone colonies that were more compelling like New Caledonia, Canada and French Guiana. French space scientists came out to work at Woomera during the ELDO period, in the early 1960s, but none seem to have stayed. Apparently they adapted well to Woomera as they were accustomed to slightly harsher conditions at the Algerian launch sites. In 1965, an association was formed to foster scientific cooperation between the two countries.

Eric and I are going to explore this further in the context of postwar immigration policies, and also the Cold War politics of nuclear rivalry and space development. There is scant archival evidence so far, but we think there is an interesting story to tell.