Experiments in Modern Living

Scientists’ Houses in Canberra 1950–1970
Authored by:
ISBN (print): 9781921862694
ISBN (online): 9781921862700
Publication date: May 2012
Imprint: ANU Press

When a group of brilliant young scientists arrived in Australia’s national capital after World War II to take up leading roles in the establishment of national research institutions, they commissioned Australia’s leading architects to design their private houses. The houses that resulted from these unique collaborations rejected previous architectural styles and wholeheartedly embraced modernist ideologies and aesthetics. The story of how these progressive clients contributed to the innovative design of their houses brings fresh insights to mid-twentieth-century Australian domestic architecture and to Canberra’s rich cultural history.


Gia Metherell’s review of Experiments in Modern Living in The Canberra Times Panorama (23 June 2012) includes an interview with the author, Milton Cameron, in which he discusses the book’s origins: “He [the author] began to trace the connection…an unlikely coming together of rational and creative genius which gave the national capital a rare architectural and cultural legacy.” (p6) Metherell writes:

Far removed from a dry academic thesis or architectural history focusing on buildings rather than their inhabitants, the book is alive with insights into the amazing generation of postwar scientists who came to Canberra.” (p7)

(Metherell, Gia. “Experiments in modern living.” Review of Experiments in Modern Living: Scientists’ Houses in Canberra 1950–1970, by Milton Cameron. The Canberra Times, June 23, 2012, Panorama.)


The recent Australian Academy of Science newsletter (Number 88, June 2012) recommended Experiments in Modern Living to its readers, as the book “explores the nexus between Australian architecture and science during a significant period in the nation’s development”. Most of the scientists featured in Experiments in Modern Living were members of the Australian Academy of Science, the review explains, “and all were part of the extraordinary scientific and intellectual community which evolved in Australia’s national capital in the post-war years.”

(“The houses that scientists build.” Review of Experiments in Modern Living: Scientists’ Houses in Canberra 1950–1970. Australian Academy of Science Newsletter, Number 88, June, 2012, p19.)


The recent Canberra Centenary edition of Australian Garden History includes a review of Experiments in Modern Living, praising the book as “an intriguing study of houses commissioned by the ‘highly educated, cultured and well-travelled intelligentsia’ who comprised Canberra’s midcentury scientific community.” (p29)

(Review of Experiments in Modern Living: Scientists’ Houses in Canberra 1950–1970, by Milton Cameron. Australian Garden History, 24(4), April/May/June 2013, p29.)