Robert Evans

By October 20th, 2014


Robert Evans was born on July 8th, 1949 at Paddington Hospital in Sydney, and lived in Coledale (a small coastal town 40 km south of Sydney).

Before marriage, his mother was a nurse at Coledale Hospital and his father was a salesman. His parents owned a general store and Robert went to Coledale primary school, where his second year teacher, Mrs Troy, imparted a lifelong interest in science by vividly discussing the possible origins of the solar system.

At age eight, Robert moved away from Coledale and went to several primary schools in New South Wales, before moving to Auckland, New Zealand, where he attended Mount Albert Grammar School. His interests in science were greatly encouraged by the excellent teachers and a headmaster (MD Nairn, MBE) who earned the admiration of staff and students alike.

In 1968, Robert returned to Australia to attend the University of Sydney, where he studied science and developed his interest in music by joining a local band ‘ an experience which helped him relate to scientific audiences throughout his career.

In 1972, he obtained his BSc with first class honours, majoring in Physical Chemistry from the University of Sydney and his PhD in the Physical Chemistry Department of the University of Sydney in 1976. His PhD thesis was on ‘Steric Stabilisation’. In this project he discovered new polymerically stabilised colloidal dispersions and described their thermodynamics. He applied quantum electrodynamics theory to describe attraction forces between colloidal particles, demonstrated enthalpic and entropic stability regimes in aqueous and non-aqueous media and demonstrated specific sensitised flocculation behaviour between dissimilar colloids.

From 1976 to 1978, he was a postdoctoral Fellow at the Empire State Paper Research Institute, State University of New York, Syracuse, NY, USA, working on colloidal properties of cellulose, floc strength measurement and theory. He developed theory and methods for estimating the strength of microcrystalline cellulose flocs and for demonstrating the anisometric nature of cellulose microcrystals on a macroscopic scale.

From 1978 to 1985, he was a Research Officer/Senior Research Officer at Australian Paper Manufacturers, Research Division, Alphington, Victoria, Australia. During this period he worked on many industrial research projects including paper strength improvement, pulping kinetics, large-scale effluent decolourisation, foam control and bleaching and sterilisation of milk carton board. At APM he helped lay the foundation for the alkaline sulfite/anthraquinone pulping process.

In 1988, he joined CSIRO Chemical & Wood Technology, Clayton, Victoria, as a Senior Research Scientist rising through the ranks of Principal Research Scientist and Senior Principal Research Scientist to the position of Chief Research Scientist in 2003.

During the period 1988-2007, his projects included cellulose polymer chemistry and physics, paper physics and methods for determining cellulose molecular weights by viscometry. He led the research that resulted in the SilviScan® invention, development and applications, sonic and near infrared spectroscopic assessment of wood and non-destructive testing; new methods for rapid assessment of wood density; new microfibril angle measurement theory and application to high-speed automation; new methods for the estimation of wood stiffness and for estimating the longitudinal shrinkage of radiata pine; and a method for identifying compression wood in softwoods.

His group developed an ethanol-exchange method for drying wood without collapse as well as a method for using dendrometer data for mapping wood properties and environmental/silvicultural events onto a common scale (Biology of Forest Growth program, initiated by Dr Joe Landsberg).

He designed SilviScan®-1, -2 and -3 and a large number of associated techniques; designed a novel NIR device for scanning wood at high spatial resolution, as well as a method for obtaining NIR measurements that match those from SilviScan®, and add chemical information to the automated analysis of wood. He also developed: a method for estimating modulus of rupture of wood from SilviScan® data; a method for constructing whole-tree maps of wood, pulp and paper properties; methods for visualising complex data from SilviScan® and laid the groundwork for the sale of SilviScan® to Sweden and to Canada.

In 2007, he was appointed a CSIRO Fellow, in the Division of Materials Science and Engineering, specialising in the development and application of SilviScan® and related technologies (X-ray diffractometry, X-ray imaging, image analysis, sonics, NIR spectroscopy, numerical analysis and modelling, large-scale data manipulation, informatics and scientific visualisation).

Honours and awards

Rob Evans is the author/co-author of 90 refereed papers, over 75 Conference papers, five Book Chapters, over 40 Technical reports/papers and two software products and is the designer of the Silviscan® instruments which were constructed in Melbourne by CSIRO staff and external contractors.


2007 CSIRO Fellow
2004 Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering (ATSE)
1997 Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science

Medals and prizes

2004 ATSE Clunies Ross National Science and Technology Medal, presented by Mr Hugh Morgan, Melbourne, Australia
2004 Josef Umdasch Prize to Prof R Wimmer, Dr G Downes and Dr R Evans, presented by Mrs Hilde Umdasch, Vienna, Austria
2001 18th Marcus Wallenberg Prize, presented by HM King Carl XVI Gustav, Stockholm, Sweden. This prize is often referred to as the forest’s and forest industry’s ‘Nobel prize’, valued at two million Swedish kroner
2001 CSIRO Chairman’s Medal, presented by CSIRO Chairman Ms Catherine Livingstone, Adelaide, Australia
1997 LR Benjamin Medal, presented by Appita President Mr Peter Brown, Brisbane, Australia

Industry associations

1996 Member, International Association of Scientific Papermakers
1978 Member, Australian and New Zealand Pulp and Paper Industries Technical Association (Appita)

Editorial boards

Editorial board member, Appita Journal
Editorial board member, Holzforschung
Editorial board member, Journal of Wood Science and Technology

Sponsored lectures

2007 Inaugural Australasian Forest Genetics Conference, April 11-14, Hobart, Tasmania. Invited theme lecture
2006 Helsinki University of Technology and Metla, Helsinki. Sponsored lectures, September
2006 Madame Curie Summer School lectures ‘ Knowledge Based Materials. Sponsored Lectures, August, Älvdalen, Sweden
2005 6th Pacific Regional Wood Anatomy Conference. Invited address, Kyoto, Japan
2005 International Union of Forest Research Organizations, World Congress. Keynote Address, Brisbane, Australia
2004 42nd Joint Japan-Australia Business Conference. Invited address to senior executives from Japan and Australia, Melbourne
2003 International Academy of Wood Science (IAWS), Academy Lecture ‘ Highest honour given by the Academy ‘ International Union of Forestry Research Organisations Conference, Rotorua, New Zealand, April
2002 Distinguished Lecturer series, University of Toronto, Canada. Sponsored lecture tour of North America. ‘SilviScan® ‘ A tool for rapid assessment of wood and wood fibre quality’
2002 Burgess-Lane Memorial Lecture at the University of British Columbia, entitled Art, Science and Informatics ‘ Visualisation of large, complex data sets in high-speed measurement of microstructure of wood. Established 1974 to honour Thomas E Burgess & David E Lane. For the presentation and publication of special lectures in forestry by outstanding authorities in forestry or forest industry
2001 Swedish Agricultural University, Uppsala. Sponsored lecture
2001 Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, Sävar. Sponsored lecture
2000 – 04 Gottstein Wood Science course for senior executives in the Australian forest products industries. Invited lectures
1999 Swedish Agricultural University, Umeå. Sponsored lecture
1999 Swedish Pulp and Paper Research Institute, Stockholm. Seven Sponsored lectures
1999 Empire State Paper Research Institute, Syracuse NY, Sponsored lecture
1989- Masters students at Australian Pulp and Paper Institute, Monash University ‘ Annual lecture series on wood structure measurement and wood ‘ paper property relationships

Hobbies and community fundraising

  • Guitar, cycling, drawing, computer programming
  • Raised funds for Multiple Sclerosis Foundation on bicycle rides (Sydney-Wollongong 2006-08, Melbourne Summer Cycle, 2009)
  • Finalist in ABC radio bands contest (band: Ruby Blonde), played on ABC radio and live at Federation Square, Melbourne, December 2005.
  • Charity concerts through Warrior’s Association, Victoria, and through Weekend Warriors under the auspices of guitarist Bob Spencer
  • Played in rock and roll band (Blatant Outrage) from 1968-74 at many Sydney venues, including charity concert at Sydney Town Hall in 1975


  • Evans R, 2009, Personal communication.