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Chemical and Materials Research Divisions

The source of most of the Divisions devoted to chemical and materials research was the Division of Industrial Chemistry. In 1937, the threat of war stimulated consideration of the need for CSIR to conduct research for secondary industry. A committee of the Commonwealth Government recommended the formation of a National Standards Laboratory, an Information Service, an Aeronautical Research Laboratory and a Chemical Research Laboratory. The first three were soon commenced, but it took the threat of imminent war to goad the CSIR to advertise for a Chief for a Division of Secondary Industry. After some delays and political manoeuvring, Ian (later Sir Ian) Wark was appointed by David Rivett as Senior Chemist rather than Chief of Division to establish the laboratory. Wark prepared a case for the establishment of a Division of Industrial Chemistry; which was supported by Rivett and ultimately approved by the Federal Cabinet early in 1940.

The Division of Industrial Chemistry existed from 1940 to 1958 and was organised into Sections, some with disciplinary names. By 1958, the Division of Industrial Chemistry had developed to such an extent that the CSIRO Executive decided to reconstitute it as the Chemical Research Laboratories with Ian Wark as the foundation Director and the constituent parts as Divisions and Sections. This new laboratory grouping continued until 1970.

Those sections which obtained divisional status were as follows:

Section Division (and date formed) Current area 4
Cement and Ceramics Division of Applied Minerology (1962) Earth Sciences and Resource Engineering
Dairy Research Division of Dairy Research (1962) Food and Nutritional Sciences
Chemical Physics Division of Chemical Physics (1958) Materials Science and Engineering
Leather & Fellmongery (later named Biochemistry), became the CSIRO Biochemistry Unit in 1949 Division of Protein Chemistry (1958) Materials Science and Engineering
Organic Chemistry Division of Organic Chemistry (1961) Materials Science and Engineering
Physical Chemistry Division of Physical Chemistry (1958) Materials Science and Engineering
Wool Textile Research Section became the Developmental Processing Unit at Geelong in 1949 Division of Textile Industry (1958) Materials Science and Engineering
Chemical Engineering Division of Chemical Engineering (1962) Process Science & Engineering
Materials Utilization Division of Mineral Chemistry (1959) Process Science and Engineering

The sections of the Division of Industrial Chemistry devoted to materials science and chemistry were:

 

  • the Chemical Physics section
  • the Organic Chemistry section
  • the Physical Chemistry section
  • the Leather and Fellmongery section
  • the Wool Textile Section

The Division of Chemical Physics was formed from the Chemical Physics Section of the Division of Industrial Chemistry in 1958. It amalgamated with the Division of Materials Science on January 1, 1987, to form the Division of Materials Science & Technology now part of CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering (see ‘Manufacturing, materials and building research Divisions’ for details).

The Organic Chemistry Section of the Division of Industrial Chemistry became an independent Section in 1958 and gained Divisional status in 1961, becoming the Division of Organic Chemistry while the Physical Chemistry section became the Division of Physical Chemistry in 1958, focusing on flotation and surface chemistry. In August 1966, the Division of Organic Chemistry joined the Division of Physical Chemistry to become the Division of Applied Chemistry, located in Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria. In 1971 the Division of Forest products (mark I) was closed and its pulp and paper research activities transferred to the Division of Applied Chemistry. After less than eight years of operation, the Division of Applied Chemistry was split, in 1974, into the Division of Applied Organic Chemistry and the Division of Chemical Technology. In 1983 following a divisional review the Division of Chemical Technology was combined with the Agricultural Engineering group from the then disbanded Division of Mechanical Engineering to form a new division, the Division of Chemical and Wood Technology. In 1988, following the McKinsey-assisted restructuring of CSIRO, the Division of Applied Organic Chemistry became the Division of Chemicals and Polymers with laboratories located in Fisherman’s Bend and Clayton. Also in 1988 the Division of Chemical and Wood Technology ceased to operate with its resources being distributed to the following Divisions: Forestry and Forest Products; Biotechnology; Chemicals and Polymers and Food Processing.

The Leather & Fellmongery Section of the Division of Industrial Chemistry was established in 1940 and renamed the Biochemistry Section in 1943. It became the CSIRO Biochemistry Unit, one of the three Wool Textile Research Laboratories in 1949. The other two were: the Physics and Engineering Unit established in Sydney in 1949; and the Developmental Processing Unit, established in December 1948 as the Wool Textile Research Section and renamed when it transferred to Geelong in March 1949. In 1958 the three units became separate Divisions, known as the Division of Protein Chemistry (in Parkville), the Division of Textile Physics at Ryde in NSW and the Division of Textile Industry at Geelong. In 1987, as part of the McKinsey-assisted restructuring of CSIRO, the Divisions of Textile Industry, Textile Physics and the wool and leather programs from the Division Protein Chemistry merged to form the Division of Wool Technology. The remaining programs of the Division of Protein Chemistry merged with the Division of Molecular Biology and the Biotechnology Unit of the Division of Chemical and Wood Technology, Clayton to form the Division of Biotechnology (1988-1989), later renamed the Division of Biomolecular Engineering (1989-1997).

In 1996 the Ryde laboratory of the Division of Wool Technology (former Division of Textile Physics laboratory) was closed and in 1999 the Division of Wool Technology changed its name once again, becoming the Division of Textile and Fibre Technology.

In July 1997 the Division of Chemicals and Polymers merged with the Division of Biomolecular Engineering to form the Division of Molecular Science. In 1999 the Division of Molecular Science was split with the North Ryde and Clayton laboratories remaining as the Division of Molecular Science, while the Parkville laboratory merged with the Division of Human Nutrition in Adelaide to form the Division of Health Sciences & Nutrition (1999-2005). In 2005 the Division of Molecular Science and the Division of Health Sciences & Nutrition remerged to form the Division of Molecular and Health Technologies (2005-2010).

In 2008 the Division of Textile and Fibre Technology and the Division of Forestry Bioscience became part of the Division of Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE).

In 2010 the Parkville and Clayton laboratories of the Division of Molecular and Health Technologies were also absorbed by the Division of Materials Science and Engineering with the North Ryde laboratory of CMHT being transferred to CSIRO Human Nutrition and Food Science Australia, to form CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences.

History of Chemical and Materials Research Divisions

Chemicals & Materials Res Divisions

Chief of Division/Officer-in-Charge

Division Chief
Industrial Chemistry (1940-58) Ian William Wark (1940-58)
Organic Chemistry Section (1958-61) Harold Herbert Hatt (1958-60)
James Robert Price (1960-61)
Organic Chemistry (1961-66) James Robert Price (1961-66)
Applied Chemistry (1966-74) Sefton Davidson Hamann (1966-74)
Applied Organic Chemistry (1974-88) David Henry Solomon (1974-86)
Peter Charles Wailes (Acting 1986-87)
Chemical Technology (1974-82) Donald Eric Weiss (1974-79)
Huntly Gordon Higgins (1979-82)
Chemical & Wood Technology (1983-87) Warren Hewertson (1983-87)
Chemicals and Polymers (1988-97) David Henry Solomon (1988-89)
Thomas Harley Spurling (1989-97)
Chemical Physics (1958-86) Albert Lloyd George Rees (1958-78)
Alexander McLeod Mathieson (Acting 1978-80)
Lewis Taylor Chadderton (1980-86)
Physical Chemistry (1958-66) Keith Leonard Sutherland (1959)
Sefton Davidson Hamann (1960-66)
Biochemistry Unit of the Wool Research Laboratories (1949-58) Francis Gordon Lennox (1949-58)
Protein Chemistry (1958-87) Francis Gordon Lennox (1958-73)
William Gordon Crewther (1973-83)
Robert Donald Bruce Fraser (Acting 1983-85)
Colin Wesley Ward (Acting 1985)
Robert Donald Bruce Fraser (1986-87)
Neil A Evans (Acting 1987)
Wool Textile Research Section (1948-49) No O-I-C
Developmental Processing Unit of the Wool Research Laboratories (1949-58) Menzie (Pip) Lipson (1949-58)
Textile Industry (1958-87) Menzie (Pip) Lipson (1958-76)
Don Stuart Taylor (1976-87)
Physics and Engineering Unit of the Wool Research Laboratories (1949-58) Victor Dudley Burgmann (1949-58)
Textile Physics (1958-87) Victor Dudley Burgmann (1958-69)
John Godkin Downes (1969-75)
Alan Robert Haley (1976-84)
Kenneth James Whiteley (1984-87)
Wool Technology (1988-99) Kenneth James Whiteley (1988-96)
Brett Oliver Bateup (1997-99)
Textile and Fibre Technology (1999-2008) Brett Oliver Bateup (1999-2005)
Nigel Johnson (2005 -2008)
Molecular and Cell Biology Unit (1975-82) Geoffrey Walter Grigg (O-i-C 1975-82)
Molecular Biology (1982-87) Geoffrey Walter Grigg (1982-87)
Biotechnology (1988-1989) Geoffrey Walter Grigg (1988)
Judith Koch (Acting 1988)
Merilyn Jane Sleigh (Acting 1988-89)
Colin McL Adam (Acting 1989)
Biomolecular Engineering (1989-1997) Peter Malcolm Colman (1989-97)
Molecular Science (mark I) (1997-2005) Thomas Harley Spurling (1997-98)
Albert Mau (Acting 1998-99)
Annabelle Duncan (1999-2005)
Health Sciences & Nutrition (1999-2005) Richard Head (1999-2002)
Graeme Woodrow (2002-05)
Molecular and Health Technologies (2005-10) Graeme Woodrow (2005-10)
Materials Science and Engineering (2007-14) Calum John Drummond (2007-11)
Catherine Patricia Foley (2011-14)

Sources

• Schedvin CB, Trace K, 1978, Historical Directory of CSIR and CSIRO 1926-1976, CSIRO Publishing.

Encyclopedia of Australian Science [external link]

• CSIRO Annual Reports

• CSIRO Communications