Custodian of world’s longest experiment dies

Source: University of Queensland
Source: University of Queensland


The University of Queensland Professor who was the custodian of the world’s longest running scientific experiment has died after suffering a stroke.

A spokeswoman for the university says 78-year old Professor John Mainstone passed away in his sleep in hospital last Friday.

Professor Mainstone was the former head of the university’s Department of Physics and the custodian of the Pitch Drop experiment for 52 years.

The Pitch Drop holds the world record for longest running science experiment, established at the University of Queensland’s St. Lucia campus in 1927.

Professor Mainstone monitored tar or ‘pitch’ slowly dripping from a glass funnel in the university’s Parnell building.

The pitch has dropped only eight times during the experiment’s 83-year run but no one has ever seen it fall.

“I’ve got close to seeing it drop two occasions,” Professor Mainstone said earlier this year.

“A camera monitoring the drop in 2000 failed and I think that’s the most frustrating thing to happen in all of the years looking after this thing.”

The Pitch, which drops roughly every decade, is expected to drop by the end of 2013.

Professor Mainstone is survived by his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren.

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