Mike Gore presenting in theatre

Through Questacon and its long-running outreach programs, Professor Gore reached millions of people with exciting opportunities to engage with science, and re-shaped science communication in Australia. His legacy lives on today at Questacon.  

Born in England in 1934, Professor Gore studied electrical engineering at Leeds University, completing his PhD in 1960. Following post-doctoral studies in the United States, he moved to Australia, where for 25 years, he taught physics at the Australian National University.

A turning point came in 1975, when Professor Gore visited San Francisco’s Exploratorium, a groundbreaking science museum with a ‘library of experiments’ for visitors to explore. It was a revelation, as he told The Canberra Times in 2015: “Like many other people around the world I stopped and said ‘wow’ and came back to Australia and said, ‘We've got to have one of those’.”  

Mike Gore at Gala Event

In 1980, Professor Gore made his vision a reality, opening the southern hemisphere’s first interactive science centre – Questacon. It started small, with just 15 hands-on exhibits in an unused building at Ainslie Public School, staffed by volunteers. Nevertheless, the centre proved popular with school groups and the community alike. In 1983, Professor Gore was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study scientific exhibits at major science centres around the world. With the aim of increasing the scope of the Questacon Centre, Professor Gore drew upon knowledge and inspiration from his study tour supported by the Winston Churchill Trust to Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, UK and the USA. In 1988, Questacon was reborn as Australia’s first National Science and Technology Centre, with a custom-built facility in Canberra’s Parliamentary Zone.  

Radically for his time, Professor Gore understood that fun mattered: it sparks engagement, which lays a foundation for learning. For him, centres like Questacon offered an exciting brush with science to inspire wonderment and curiosity. “Science centres are not there to teach; schools and universities are there to teach. Science centres are there to inspire and make people think, change people's perceptions,” Professor Gore said in 2015, “To make people think, ‘Oh here is an exciting and interesting subject, I never realised that was connected to that’.” 

Mike Gore with Show props

From the beginning, Professor Gore was passionate about bringing Questacon’s brand of hands-on science engagement out of Canberra and into communities across the country. In 1985 he founded Questacon’s first outreach program, the Questacon Science Circus. What began as a handful of exhibits in a rented van is now the world’s longest running and most travelled science outreach program. As well as reaching more than three million people in even the most remote corners of Australia, the Science Circus has produced hundreds of graduates who are now trained and passionate science communicators. This success was among Professor Gore’s proudest achievements. 

Professor Gore’s immense contribution has been recognised with a number of honours and awards. For his services to science education, he was made Canberran of the Year in 1983, a Member of the Order of Australia in 1986, and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015.  

Professor Gore’s legacy endures, both in Questacon’s work and in the lives of the countless people he influenced, including Questacon staff, volunteers and visitors. It is because of his vision and drive that Questacon is here today, and continues to inspire new generations with the wonders – and fun – of science and learning. 

Professor Mike Gore AO (1934–2022) was the founder of Questacon and its Director from 1988 to 1999. In 1995, he established the ANU’s National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, where he was Adjunct Professor.