Philip Silberstein interview, 24 August 2011 and 20 September 2011

Dublin Core


Philip Silberstein interview, 24 August 2011 and 20 September 2011


Engineering, mathematics


Josef Philipp Otto (“Phil”) Silberstein was born in Vienna on 5 July 1920. In February 1939, at the age of 18, he left Europe to live in Melbourne. In 1966 he joined the University of Western Australia, eventually becoming Emeritus Professor of Mathematics. Together with his wife Judith Silberstein, who was involved with Tuart Club, they founded Friends of the UWA Library in 1963 in their role with Convocation.


Silberstein, Philip


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Philip Silberstein


Interview 1: 48 minutes, 58 seconds
Interview 2: 54minutes, 10 seconds
Interview 3: 38 minutes, 15 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes, 23 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency


Time Summary

Track 1
Origins and family background leading up to career. Philip Silberstein grew up in Vienna. Born in 1920. Czechoslovakia, Hitler, England and education. Being tri lingual. Tertiary education and Australia. Leaving Europe and coming to live in Melbourne in February 1939. Junior lab assistant at the Aeronautical Research Labs. Division of forest products and substitute materials for aeroplanes.
Melbourne, Aeronautical Research Labs.
Engineer in aeronautics at Melbourne University. Mr Arthur Weilds*. Suggestions of career path and mathematics.
Engineer, mathematics
Memories of family background. Father was a pathologist. Animal experiments and teaching at the university. Memories of the laboratory and medicine. Memories of living in Vienna and the Czeck republic. And early education. Parents background.
Family, parents
Fondest memories in Europe. Coming out of Europe as a result of the war. Austria was in absolute turmoil. Coming to Australia and the new world. Did we find Australia very primitive. Coming out on a boat. Academics coming back to Melbourne university. Memories of Black Friday bushfires. Landing at Fremantle. Smelling the gum trees. The little village of Perth WA. Dry grass and Norfolk island pines.
Childhood, family, Europe, Australia
Career path and coming to UWA. Memories of the art gallery. Impressions. Early years in Australia. A different standard of living. Becoming stateless as a result of the war. Aliens reporting to the police.
Career, university of Western Australia
Graduation in 1944 and classified a technical officer and research officer. CSIRO scholarship and years in Cambridge. Exciting time and subject matter. Mathematical problems and equations for the vibration mountings for the Mustang bomber. Functional analysis Bryn Smithies*.
Graduation, CSIRO, Scholarship, Cambridge
Research student at Bryn Smithies had an encyclopaedic knowledge. Acceptance of the thesis and functional analysis. Working Melbourne and the Theory of Elasticity. Working on defence and dept of supply. Americans and secret information for CSIRO.
Thesis, Theory of Elasticity, CSIRO
Rocket analysis and aeronautical work. Arthur Weilds* and engineering work. Technical analysis.
Arthur Weilds*, technical analysis
Aeronautics. Consulting lab and radio telescope. Research and administrative nonsense and coming to Western Australia.

Track 2
Encouraged by Dr Leavy* and Larry Blakers to University of Western Australia. Coming to conferences at UWA. UWA was growing and looking for staff. Getting away from previous areas of study. Initial impressions of UWA. University housing settlement of people with similar interest. Academic community. Seeing UWA being run.
Dr. Leavy, Blakers, growing, University housing settlement
Memories of Sir Stanley Prescott. Running university colleges and the university board and the senate. University funding was state based. Federal government funding. Money into capital works. Non fee paying institution. WA and readjustment of fee structures. Prescott allows university to function without administered bureaucracy.
Sir Stanley Prescott, bureaucracy, federal government, funding
Problems with bureaucracy. Numbers of full time students. The Bursars Office and investments. The famous Number Two account. Investments secure and profit. Problems with administration. Justify use of virgin bush. Staff and the running of the university. Buying and selling a house and The Bank of NSW and UWA. Story of the house. Staff members and house deposits.
Administration, staff, students, investments
Interest in governance of the university. Department relationship with the Vice Chancellor. Blakers and Leavy* and Silberstein visit Prescott. Connections between the faculty and the Professorial Board and The Senate. Redrafting of the Convocation Statute.
Blakers, Leavy, Prescott, Redrafting of the Convocation Statute
The senate wanted to change its constitution. Long process and thought for change. Academic and staff and student tension. Balance of the senate. Elected members and ex-officiate members. The Vice Chancellor and the Director General of Education. Government nominate members. 6 members of Convocation and the 18 member senate.
Constitution, members
Committees made up of academic staff and admin staff. The Senate would have access to advice from outside The Senate. Convocation was cut down to 4 members as a compromise. Observation of the running of Convocation. Blakers insists to be on Convocation. The donation of prizes. Examiners meeting
Convocation, members, Blakers
Introduction to Convocation. Two levels of being on Convocation. People pay subscription every year. Trips and tours around the world. Extracurricular activities. Becoming more involved in Convocation by Bert Priest and Henry Schafer*. Personal views of what Convoctation should espouse. Unrealistic aspirations.
Bert Priest, Henry Schafer*
Secretarial staff of Convocation are paid by university. Cost of administration and independence. Furnishing the Irwin Street building.
Staff, Convocation, administration, independence
Problems seen. Convocation loses power. Elected members of staff take no notice of Convocation. Academic status and person views to put UWA on the right track. Members of The Senate do not want to attend meeting of the council.
Problems, power, council, members, Convocation
Warden of Convocation was not a member of The Senate. The Guild President and The Senate. Losing two seats. The Senate and Convocation and money. Prizes turn into medals. Financial Support of research students. Award ceremonies. Increasing the stature of Convocation.
Convocation, money, prize, The Guild, financial support
The prime movers and shakers of Convocation. Kit Gray* and Dorothy Ransom. Dorothy outlives most of the members of Convocation. friends of the library. The old university and other universities.
Prime movers, Kit Wray, Dorothy Ransom
Friends of music and the music society. Dorothy was a long supporter of the friends of the Library. Writing the history of Convocation. The Irwin street committee and the dubious venture. Sentimental attachment to that building. Replacing the Cricket Pavilion. The old Dolphin Theatre and the Engineering lab.
Music Society, Dolphin Theatre, cricket pavilion, Irwin St Committee
Success of the Dolphin Theatre and student control. Irwin street building and student presence. Moving the temporary building. Mark Harland* the architect. Involved with furnishing and window treatment.
Irwin St Building, Mark Harland*, fundraising
Heritage architect complain about the building. Heritage of the building is stretched and enormous cost. The Tuart Club. Staffing the building. Envisaging extended activities of Convocation.
Tuart Club, staffing, heritage
Funding of staffing and paying off ex secretarial employee.
Funding, staffing

Track 3
Problems that have arisen from lack of funding. Fundraising by the alumni. Convocation prize. Cash value of prize devalues. Change of tempo and attracting funds. Volunteer bodies around the university. Completion for limited funding source. Coordination of fundraisers. Donations and tax free funds. Bursars office and uni administration.
Problems, funding, donations, administration
Social event and fundraising events. Cost of functions. 50 year reunions. Successful occasions and archives. Functions and overseas trips have been phased out. Academic backgrounds are valuable. Invited to tours.
Social event, tours, reunions
Keeping convocation alive. Scholarships and sources of travel funding. Kingsley Dickson and tissue cultures. Verbal report and functions. Kingsley serves on the standing committee. Student that benefits that gives back.
Kingsley Dickson, student benefits
Committees and voluntary involvements. Friends of The Festival. Convocation initiated friends of the university library and other initiatives. Dr Austen* and Dr James. Enthusiasm wanes. Attracting more members. Pauline Tremlett. Benefitting and collaborating from fundraising activities.
Committees, Pauline Tremlett, enthusiasm, Dr Austen, Dr James
Exchanging information. Arranging to collate information about meetings. And a diary of events. Administrative. Pauline Tremlett.
Pauline Tremlett, events
The role of convocation and the Dawkins minister for education. The Tertiary Education Scheme. Vice Chancellor Bob Smith. Expressing concerns. Instructions on high. Politicians and assurances. Influencing education policy. The only way con can be effective. Quality of the members and warden. Susan Baker working for CSIRO impresses the Senate.
Susan Baker, CSIRO, Dawkins, Tertiary Education Scheme, Bob Smith, politicians
Committee and convocation having a significant effect. Affect on fundraising. The impact of convocation. Higher profile of convocation. Involvement with particular groups. Importance of sport. The Sport Award. John Invervarity. Convocation has some status.
Committee, fundraising, sport award
Convocation role has been extended. Convocation at Murdoch declared defunct. Convocation at UWA is there for keeps. The tradition of UWA will keep Convocation alive. Being seen as a benefactor. Summing up time on Convocation. Redrafting the constitution. Two elected members and the Warden.
Tradition, redrafting the constitution, Murdoch
Getting to the Senate through the registrar. Time wasted in making progress. University and the computerisation of records. Software needed and the production of programme. Describing the body of graduates and the reputation of the university. A first rate university and the quality of graduates. Looking after the body – Convocation.
Computerisation, reputation,




Silberstein, Philip, “Philip Silberstein interview, 24 August 2011 and 20 September 2011,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed June 13, 2024,