5: The Physics of Rubbing Surfaces (1944)


  • Frank Philip Bowden Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, University of Melbourne


Two Liversidge Research Lectures delivered on October 17 and 18, 1944, at the Chemistry Department, University of Sydney, arranged by the Royal Society under the terms of the Liversidge Bequest. Reproduced by permission of the Royal Society of New South Wales from J. Proc. Roy. Soc. N.S.W., 1944, 78, 187–219.

"In this lecture we shall be dealing with a very old and very unfashionable branch of natural science - friction - and we wish to discuss some of the physical processes that occur when two solids are rubbed together."

"We shall confine our attention to some of the physical processes that occur when one solid slides over another. There is a resistance to motion which we call friction. What is the mechanism of that frictional force, and from the point of view of a molecule sitting on the surface, what is really happening?"

Author Biography

Frank Philip Bowden, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, University of Melbourne


When WWII broke out in 1939, Frank Philip Bowden assisted the war effort by becoming the Officer-in-Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Lubricants and Bearings Section at the University of Melbourne, which later became the Division of Materials Science and Technology at the CSIRO. He still held this position when he gave his Liversidge Lecture in 1944. In 1945 he returned to Cambridge, where he had begun his post-doctoral career, going on to have a distinguished career in surface physics. He was appointed a Personal Chair at Cambridge in 1966.


For additional biographical information, photographic permissions, references and a list of honours, awards and publications, please see pages 2–4 of the transcript.


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Frank Philip Bowden portrait and lecture title.