Guide to the Papers of Lennard Bickel

MS 8432, GB 1993/0608

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Lennard Bickel
Papers of Lennard Bickel
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 8432, GB 1993/0608
3.6 metres (22 boxes, 1 elephant folio)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

This collection mainly comprises research material for, and drafts of, several books and journal and newspaper articles by Bickel. The papers also include correspondence, photographs, transcripts of interviews, reviews and published material.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Lennard Bickel, National Library of Australia [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.


The National Library of Australia purchased the papers from Mr Bickel in November 1984.


This collection was sorted and listed by a student from the University of Canberra, June 1992.

Other papers of Bickel, containing publications, cuttings and a transcript of the Apollo II Mission commentary are held at MS 2721.

Biographical Note

Lennard Bickel was born in 1923. He was a former science writer for the ABC and also worked in this capacity for the Australian in 1960-69. He was the only Australian journalist invited to witness the 1969 Apollo II moon landing from the launch site.

In 1970 Bickel was awarded a Commonwealth Literary Fellowship in order to write Riseup to life, a biography of Howard Florey. He has since written a number of other books including This accursed land (1977) and The deadly element: the story of uranium (1980), as well as articles on a diverse range of subjects.

Bickel has served as a member of the management committee on the Council of the Australian Society of Authors. In 1974 he was made a Knight of the Order of Mark Twain for his biography of Norman Borlaug.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 8432. Original consignment

Comprises research material for and drafts of books and journal and newspaper articles by Bickel. The papers also include correspondence, photographs, transcripts of interviews, reviews and printed matter. Topics include Howard Florey, Norman Borlaug, astronomy, Sir Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition, uranium, Frank Hurley, Sir Ernest Shackleton, space history, prostaglandins and cancer research, Aboriginal prehistory and the Ord River survey.

Contained in 14 boxes, 1 elephant folio.

Series 1. Rise up to life, 1941-83 (Published by Angus Robertson, 1972) - Box 1-2

This series contains material about Howard Florey - personal tributes, medical and other journal articles on penicillin, army records, and other case studies - mostly comprising photocopies. It also includes book reviews, photographs, correspondence and letters, incomplete drafts of the book, and printed matter.

Series 2. Facing starvation, 1971-74 (Published by Readers' Digest Press, 1974) - Box 2

This series contains a condensed version of Facing starvation : Norman Borlaug and the fight against hunger. Also featured are newspaper articles, correspondence, and a copy of Borlaug's Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Series 3. The southern universe, 1974-78 (Published by Macmillan, 1975) - Folio [unnumbered]

Contains approximately twenty folio sized photographs from Bickel's book The southern universe, about the astronomy of the southern hemisphere. Also included is a letter, photocopies of photos from the book, and the draft of an article.

Series 4. This accursed land, 1975-82 (Published by Sun Books, 1977) - Box 2-5

This accursed land is a condensed version of Bickel's earlier work entitled Mawson's will. This series contains a manuscript, unedited draft, galley proofs and further drafts (incomplete) of the book. Copies of Mawson's diaries, geographical narrative and an abbreviated log are included, as well as a foreword for the book handwritten by Sir Edmund Hillary. It also contains a transcript of a 1975 interview with Eric Webb, letters he wrote to Bickel, copies of correspondence concerning Mawson and X. Mertz, a draft of an article called 'The great white land', reviews of Mawson's will and This accursed land, and some printed matter.

Also featured is publicity and souvenir material, and articles about Dick Smith's 1977 Antarctic Expedition in which Bickel took part.

Series 5. The deadly element, 1939-78 (Published by Macmillan, 1979) - Box 6-8

Research material gathered by Bickel for his 1979 book on the development of the atomic bomb. It includes published material on uranium and nuclear energy, journal articles, cassettes of interviews with Glenn Seaborg (discoverer of plutonium) and Otto Frisch (nuclear scientist), notes of interviews with Frisch and Sir Mark Oliphant, photographs, and a profile on Martin Klaproth (in German). Included also are copies of some French government and industry correspondence and of British government material taken from the PRO (CAB 21 documents). The PRO documents are in chronological order and date from 1939.

The original correspondence includes letters from Glenn Seaborg and Sir Mark Oliphant.

Series 6. In search of Frank Hurley, 1911-ca. 1950 (Published by Macmillan, 1980) - Box 9

Photographs of, and by, Hurley; a magazine article featuring several examples of his work; a complete draft (plus incomplete sections) and an edited manuscript of the book; and correspondence.

Correspondents include the Australian Society of Authors, Macmillan and Eric Webb.

Series 7. Shackleton's forgotten argonauts, 1977-84 (Published by Macmillan, 1982) - Box 10

Research material, reviews, letters, and copies of the photographs used to illustrate the book. A copy of the diary of R.W. Richards, an article, and information and photos of a bronze bust of him are also included. There is also a copy of Richards' book The Ross Sea shore party 1914-17.

This series also includes an article entitled 'Bird and animal life in Antarctica'. Correspondents include Lord Shackleton (son of Sir Ernest) and Eric Webb.

Series 8. Space history, 1969 - Box 10

This series contains research material on exploration into space. It features a typed transcript of a NASA press conference titled 'Rock sample findings', and an undated draft of an article entitled 'Space project'.

Series 9. Prostaglandins and cancer research, 1969-73 - Box 11

This series contains background information on prostaglandins, letters and telegrams from the drug company Upjohn, and published articles on prostaglandins research. Also included is an itinerary of Bickel's research trip to the USA, photographs of the Upjohn research lab, and a draft of a 1971 article written for the Australian.

This series also contains material relating to cancer research - journal articles, a transcript of an ABC talk, a CSIRO press release, notes, and the draft of an article written by Bickel on cancer research.

Series 10. Aboriginal prehistory, 1951-81 - Box 11-12

Bickel wrote several pieces on Aboriginal prehistory, including the script of an ABC television documentary, The antique Australian. Articles include 'The ancients', 'The antique continent', 'The rock art story', and 'Man of the dreaming'.

The series contains a biography of Norman Tindale of the South Australian Museum, several booklets written or co-written by Tindale and published by the Museum between 1951 and 1958, and notes from Museum field trips. It also contains material on a significant discovery of stone-age tools made by the Museum in 1969.

There are a number of published and unpublished articles on Aborigines and Aboriginal prehistory, several slides and photo negatives of rock art, road maps of Victoria and the Kununurra region of WA, and notes and drafts (incomplete) of articles on Aboriginal prehistory.

Series 11. The Ord River initial survey party, 1959-74 - Box 13

This series contains the draft of an article entitled 'The Ord River - Australia's forgotten frontier'. It includes the itinerary of the survey party, press telegrams, and correspondence with Sir Charles Court.

Series 12. General correspondence, 1968-77 - Box 13

This series contains correspondence relating to Bickel's work for science journals, and some relating to oral history recordings carried out for the National Library of Australia. Also included is a list of photographs held at the Mawson Institute for Antarctic Research.

Correspondents include Laurence Pollinger Ltd and Jessica McEwin (daughter of Douglas Mawson).

Series 13. Articles and talks, 1967-70 - Box 13

Contained in this series is background material for articles on a diverse range of subjects including Fred Hoyle, sleep, earthquakes, and the population explosion. There is a transcript of a talk on immunology, a list of 1967 teaching staff of the ANU Institute of Advanced Studies, a 1969 NASA press release and both draft and published articles by Bickel. Several 1969-70 newspaper articles on atomic power are included.

Series 14. Printed matter, 1967-74 - Box 14

This series contains miscellaneous journal and newspaper articles on a wide range of subjects. The topics include heart transplants, moon rocks, radio, Queen Victoria, and Fred Hoyle. Some science journal material is included, as well as an Atomic Energy Commission booklet, and a letter from Robin Brett of NASA.

Series 15. Miscellaneous, 1952, 1971, 1974 - Box 14

This series contains miscellaneous pieces including a CSIRO press release, a newspaper feature on the death of King George VI from London's Evening Standard, and a press copy of a speech on infectious diseases given at the Australian Academy of Science by Sir Macfarlane Burnet.

Class GB 1993/0608. Consignment added 1993

Comprises manuscripts, photographs and research material relating to Bickel's work on Braille, Florey, Mawson, Shackleton, Rutherford and Elizabeth Macarthur, as well as general correspondence, articles, reviews, talks, press cuttings and other memorabilia.

Contained in 8 boxes.