Born into to a Royal Navy family, David’s formative years were spent in Portsmouth. After grammar school, he gained an Open Exhibition in Natural Sciences to Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge. There followed a Scholarship to conduct research on fuel cells that led to a PhD.
Away from the lecture room and laboratory, David represented his college at rugby, soccer, rowing and cricket, played bridge with Stephen Hawking, and became the President of the Cambridge University Graduate Society.
In 1967, he married Gwen Lloyd Jones, a fellow student. After a 31-day horror voyage, they arrived in Melbourne on July 1969 for David to join the CSIRO methanol fuel cell team. This technology did not meet expectations and David applied his electrochemistry expertise to improving the efficiency of the processing of mineral sulfide ores at Mt Isa, Broken Hill, and Rosebery.
On the home front, David and Gwen had settled in Beaumaris and were blessed with three sons. In order of birth: Simon is a successful businessman, Timothy is a self-taught IT guru, and Toby is a Rockstar located in Los Angeles (currently performing in Las Vegas). Toby found fame by being chosen to represent Australia in Rockstar Supernova. Click on the buttons at the bottom to see Toby in concert.
Gwen periodically returned to being a school music teacher at St Michael’s GS and then at Firbank GS. David played rugby with Melbourne University, soccer with Sandringham FC, rowed with Banks RC, and cricket in the Churches League. On retiring from competitive sport, he spent the next 34 years as a soccer referee.
Following the Energy Crises in the early 1970s, it was thought that oil may run out. Thus, attention turned to using electricity from renewable sources. Since this energy is stored in batteries, David formed the CSIRO Novel Battery Technologies Group. There followed R&D on batteries for remote-area power systems and for transportation applications, e.g., hybrid cars, electric vehicles, trains, submarines, and a rail gun (!).
David was one of the six scientists who established the USA-based Advanced Lead–Acid Battery Consortium in 1992 and served as its manager in 1994 with a US$30 million budget.
Back at CSIRO David was the co-inventor of the UltraBattery® that is now used both in cars and in stationary power plants. In 1987, Hans Tholstrup and David introduced the World Solar Challenge (WSC), an international event for solar cars driving from Darwin to Adelaide. It has been staged 16 times (552 cars from 32 nations have competed).
Many car companies have used the WSC as a live testbed for their products.
David’s last CSIRO project, in 2004, was to examine the prospects of Hydrogen Energy.
He retired in 2008 and now remains as an Honorary Research Scientist. David was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1998.
Among his many awards David has received a ScD from Cambridge, the Faraday Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK), the UNESCO Gaston Planté Medal from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Australian Centenary Medal, the R.H. Stokes Medal from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, and the CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement. He is included in the 2016 biographical dictionary: Innovations in Battery Technology — Profiles of 93 Influential Electrochemists
In 2013, he became a Member of the Order of Australia for service to science and technological development in the field of energy storage.
Among David’s many hobbies are (in no order of priority): family history, philately, numismatics, vintage radio and TV programmes, bridge, vintage steam railways, model (Hornby 00) railways, antiques, battery conferences.
Take a look at Toby in action
Please note – Unfortunately YouTube has adverts – either skip them or put up with them for 30 seconds or so.
Toby’s winning original song performed in LA during the CBS Television reality series Rock Star: Supernova. His parents and two brothers were among the crowd.
Video version of Toby’s ‘Cellophane World’ — one of his many wide-ranging compositions.
Toby with his band Ashen Moon performing as guest stars at the 2019 Hollywood Christmas Parade. Dad bought him the red jacket at DFO Moorabbin!
Garry Beers (ex INXS) on bass guitar.