Controversial scientist

Roy MacLeod
Med J Aust 2005; 183 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2005.tb06870.x
Published online: 7 April 2005

Among the rare Sydney University graduates to receive an 1851 Exhibition, Trikojus returned from his doctoral years in Oxford and Munich with much to offer his alma mater. Notwithstanding his scientific reputation, he is perhaps best remembered for his wartime detention as an alleged pro-Nazi sympathiser, an image that was in 1999 wildly exaggerated by articles in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and on SBS television. The son of a German-born, naturalised Australian father, Trikojus was caught up in the tide of anti-Nazi (mixed with anti-communist) hysteria that coursed through Australia in 1940, leading to his formal detention in 1941, and to restrictions on his movements until 1944. A less robust character might have given way before what now seems singularly misjudged persecution by ill-informed and ill-advised, if not actually incompetent, security services. During and after the war, Trikojus, whose European manner and conservative mannerisms conjured an image of the “other” in an Australia still deeply British in both form and appearance, attracted misunderstanding. To this image, his outspoken, Russian-born wife of mixed European descent, may have inadvertently contributed. At the same time, his dealings with leading Australian scientists were widely praised, and warmly supported.

  • Roy MacLeod



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