First published on 18 Jul 2009. Updated on 30 Sep 2009.
The Frontiers of Science comic strip, which ran in TheSydney Morning Herald from 1961 to 1979, took topics like 'evolution' and 'relativity' out of dusty textbooks and presented the information in a way that could be enjoyed over Weet-Bix and tea. This made-in-Sydney comic series also popularised the latest scientific breakthroughs over two decades by publishing strips on space travel, the moon walk, cancer and climate change.
For the first time in 30 years, the Frontiers of Science artwork will be widely seen when it's exhibited this month for the Ultimo Science Fesitval.
The black-and-white strips were written by Stuart Butler, a theoretical physicist and professor at the University of Sydney, and Bob Raymond, an ABC-TV journalist, and drawn by Andrea Bresciani. Frontiers of Science was syndicated to about 200 overseas newspapers in 12 languages.
Early in the series, Butler and Raymond captured the excitement of 1960s space exploration, says Abigail Thomas, Ultimo Science Festival organiser for the ABC, in whose foyer this exhibition will be held. "The creators explained science in a way people enjoyed reading and tapped into the massive curiosity at the time about science," she says.
Each week delved into a different topic, explained in five comic strips, with one running each weekday. The first topic, 'radiation', explored whether the phenomenon would make space travel impossible.
As science advanced, so did the comic. A later strip explored what happened during the moon walk, 40 years ago this year, referring to it as the climax of "the most spectacular race in man's history".
The widows of Butler and Raymond donated the Frontiers of Science collection to the University of Sydney Library, which is digitising and archiving all 939 weeks of the series. The exhibition at ABC Ultimo Centre draws on about 20 weeks of material, including the 'moon walk' and 'evolution' strips.
Maureen Burns, lecturer in cultural and media studies at the University of Queensland, is co-authoring a book about this series' significance in science communication. "We think it's an unusual example of communication of science through a low-culture genre," she says.
Butler and Raymond chose topics that were likely to excite the audience, she says. "They were capturing the popular imagination at a time of a real belief in science. It related so much to the things that were big news at the time."
10-29 Aug, ABC Ultimo Centre