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Biographical entry Hartnett, Laurence John (1898 - 1986)

CBE, Kt cr

26 May 1898
4 April 1986
Mechanical engineer and Business executive


Sir Laurence Hartnett was Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's Ltd Australia 1934-1947 and a director of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd, Melbourne 1935-1947. He was Director of Ordnance Production within the Munitions Department and presided over the first meeting of the Optical Munitions Panel. Hartnett was a guiding influence over the Panel's work. He was also involved with many external bodies including a stint as Chairman of Ferro Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd and John Hart Pty Ltd. Hartnett completed a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with Vickers Ltd; Lt., before joining the Royal Navy Air Service and the Royal Air Force. After the war he joined General Motors and worked at many of their branches all over the world, before coming to Australia in 1934.



1917 - 1919
Career position - Served with the Royal Navy Air Service and the Royal Air Force
c. 1920 - c. 1933
Career position - Senior Executive of General Motors in India, Ceylon, Malaya, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, USA, UK
1934 - 1947
Career position - Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's Ltd Australia
1935 - 1947
Career position - Inaugural Director of Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd
1940 - 1945
Career position - Director of Ordnance Production within the Munitions Department
1942 - 1946
Career position - Chairman of the Army Inventions Directorate
1945 - 1971
Career position - Council member of the Science Museum of Victoria
1949 - 1986?
Career position - Chairman and Managing Director of Hartnett Holdings Pty Ltd
Award - Public Service Star of Republic of Singapore received

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Laurence John Hartnett - Records, 1934 - 1986; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Hartnett, Laurence, Big wheels and little wheels, Rev. edn, Gold Star Publications, Hawthorn (Vic.), 1973, 278 pp. Details

Conference Papers

Journal Articles

  • Rich, Joe, 'An Edwardian Childhood: Sir Laurence Hartnett and theSearch for Identity', Australian Historical Society, vol. 24, 1990, pp. 252-266. Details


Resource Sections

See also

  • Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Technology in Australia 1788-1988, Online edn, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, Melbourne, 3 May 2000, Details
  • Bolton, H. C., 'Optical Instruments in Australia in the 1939-45 War: successes and lost opportunities', Australian Physicist, 1990. Details
  • Engineers Australia, Wonders never cease: 100 Australian engineering achievements, Institution of Engineers, Australia, Barton, A.C.T., 2019, 236 pp. pp.150-151. Details
  • Gold, Ergad; Greener, Rosalie (Ed) (ed.), Inventive Vics Exhibition, Catalogue of the Exhibition, Museum of Victoria, 1st May - 14th June 1985. Celebrating the Sesquicentenary of Victoria, Australian Scientific Industry Association, Melbourne, Victoria, 1985, 58 pp. Optical Munitions. Details
  • Mellor, D.P., 'Optical Munitions', Chapter 12 in Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Series 4: Civil, volume 5 'The Role of Science and Industry', Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1958, 1958. Details
  • Sherratt, Tim; Condé, Anne-Marie, A Wartime Observatory Observed - the Mount Stromlo Community, 1940-1945, Australian Science Archives Project, Canberra, 1994, Details
  • Wisdom, John, A History of Defence Science in Australia, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Melbourne, 1995, 267 pp. Details

McCarthy, G.J.