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Ranko Dragila (1949–1990)

by Barry Luther-Davies

Dr Ranko Dragila, Fellow in the Laser Physics Centre, RSPhyS, died of lymphoblastic leukaemia in Woden Valley hospital on August 30th. He is survived by his wife Ljiljana and their four children Mladen, Predrag, Jelana and Miriana.

Ranko was born in Prague in 1949 and studied theoretical physics at Charles University. He completed his PhD in 1975 and joined the permanent staff on the Department of Physical Electronics at the Technical University in Prague. He visited the ANU in 1980 returning in 1981 to take up a Research Fellowship to work on laser-plasma interaction physics which has been the focus of his work ever since. He was appointed to Fellow in 1986.

Ranko was a born optimist with a wicked sense of humour—and was almost always 'excellent' if one enquired. His often painful illness never seemed to detract from that state. The reason was simple, he needed only three things to be 'excellent', those were his family; his work; and fishing - his illness was merely a nuisance which he was certain he could overcome when the time was right.

Ranko was a devoted father and husband and immensely proud of his family's achievements. As a physicist, his greatest attribute was his ability to translate the mathematics which was the tool of his trade into a clear, physical interpretation of whatever phenomenon he studies. He called it 'doing physics on fingers' and this approach made him an invaluable asset to the essentially experimental group with which he interacted. Taken outside Canberra, Ranko became a demon fly fisherman and supplied his Laser Physics colleagues with smoked trout on several occasions after fishing expeditions.

His sunny personality whilst living with leukaemia for the past six years and the tenacity with which he fought to overcome his latest illness has been an example to us all. His friends and colleagues hope to establish a small memorial to Ranko through a fund to support the award of a prize to the Laser Physics student producing the best piece of written work, conference presentation or seminar during a given year. Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund can contact Dianne Hodges on 2494244.

Original publication

Citation details

Barry Luther-Davies, 'Dragila, Ranko (1949–1990)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Prague, Czech Republic


30 August, 1990 (aged ~ 41)
Woden, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (leukemia)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.