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Biographical entry Butement, William Alan Stewart (1904 - 1990)


18 August 1904
Masterton, New Zealand
25 January 1990
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


William Butement was Chief Scientist with the Commonwealth Department of Supply and in executive charge of Australian Defence Scientific Research and Development 1949-1967 which included the Rocket Range at Woomera. Earlier in his career his work on radar earned him the title "Mr Searchlight Radar". However, he regarded the proximity fuse as his greatest achievement.


Born Masterton, New Zealand, 18 August 1904. Died Melbourne, 25 January 1990. CBE 1959. Educated University College London (BSc). Scientific Officer, Signals Experimental Establishment War Office outstation Woolwich, United Kingdom 1928-38; senior scientific officer, Radar Research and Development Establishment, United Kingdom Ministry of Supply 1938-39; principal scientific officer and assistant director of scientific research, United Kingdom Ministry of Supply HQ London 1940-46; deputy chief scientific officer of party to Australia under Sir John Evetts to set up Rocket Range; first chief superintendent, Long Range Weapons Establishment Australia 1947-49; chief scientist, Department of Supply 1949-67, responsible for the newly created Australian Defence Scientific Service (ADSS); Research director, Plessey Pacific Pty Ltd 1967-72. Co-founder and Foundation Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences 1975. Commemorated by the High Frequency Radar Division Butement Laboratory at Salisbury in South Australia.


1975 - 1987
Award - Foundation Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences
1987 - 1990
Award - Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering

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Archival resources

Private hands (contact Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre)

  • William Alan Stewart Butement - Records, 1960 - 1990; Private hands (contact Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre). Details

Published resources


  • Williams, Betty, Dr W. A. S. Butement, the first Chief Scientist for Defence, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Canberra, 1991, 27 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Home, R. W., 'Butement, William Alan Stewart (1904-1990), Defence Scientist', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 17, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2007, pp. 172-174. Details


See also

McCarthy, G.J.