From the mid-1930s, Australian physicists, though few in number, sought to join the exciting new field of research then opening up in experimental nuclear physics. Such research was already, however, largely based on the use of particle accelerators, and to acquire one demanded money and resources on a scale unprecedented in Australian scientific experience. Australian attempts during the period 1935–1960 to build accelerators or to acquire them by other means are described. The difficulties that Australian physicists faced in this connection and the strategies by which they sought to overcome them are considered. Three stages of development are identified: an initial period of small-scale initiatives in the 1930s, a postwar period of “do-it-yourself” accelerator building, and finally a growing practice of buying machines “off the shelf” from commercial suppliers.

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