When Richard O’Sullivan arrived at Marcellin from that other Marcellin College, at Randwick NSW, for Year 9 in 1957, his fellow students immediately recognised that they had a new ‘brain” in the class. Some would have predicted correctly, there and then, that the new boy would one day be a professor of modern physics. But Richard was far from being a unidimensional scientific boffin. He showed as much aptitude at the humanities subjects as the scientific, and became a standout in the successful school debating team.
After leaving Marcellin, Richard entered the Jesuit novitiate at Watsonia, where his studies emphasised philosophy, but after a few years he decided that his real calling lay elsewhere - in the world of science. He took Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Melbourne, and then moved to the Max Planck Institute of Plasma physics in Germany for his PhD research project. In 1974 he joined the teaching faculty of RMIT University, lecturing in Applied Physics, where he was eventually to become Associate Professor. Breaks from RMIT included research spells in Stuttgart and Cambridge.
Now enjoying life in retirement in Kew with his wife Anne, Richard’s hobbies continue to be science, philosophy and languages. Apart from being fluent in English, German and French, he also has basic ability in Italian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese. For sport Richard and Anne ski with their son and daughter.
The teacher he remembers most appreciatively at Marcellin is Brother Eustace, for his dedication to science, but particularly for his humane approach to the students at a time when less gentle methods were sadly all too common.
“When I was a student at Marcellin”, Richard says, “I never anticipated such an enjoyable career in physics and academia, nor being able to travel so widely and live in foreign societies, simply because such possibilities were never envisaged at Marcellin in those days.”