David Solomon, interviewed by Tom Spurling and Terry Healy, 12 January 2017 and 2 February 2017

By September 3rd, 2018

From 1986-87, David served as Acting Director of the CSIRO Institute of Industrial Technologies with responsibilities for several CSIRO Divisions

Edited transcript (PDF – 652 KB)

Interview summary

Dr David Solomon talks about his childhood growing up during the Depression in Adelaide, Broken Hill and Sydney. He talks briefly about the death of his father when he was 16 and the fights between Australian and American troops on the streets of Sydney.

David then discusses his education at Ultimo Tech and the Sydney Technical High School and his decision to work at BALM Paints (which became Dulux) after finishing his secondary education. This enabled him, while working, to do his Associate Diploma at the Sydney Technical College and eventually degrees up to a PhD at the University of New South Wales. David moved his young family to Melbourne in the early 1960s to work in the Dulux Research laboratories at Clayton. This long industrial career stood him in good stead for his later career in CSIRO.

David joined the CSIRO Division of Applied Mineralogy at Fishermens Bend in 1963 after being rejected for a position in the Division of Organic Chemistry. He talks in detail about his research activities in that Division, and how he built networks and connections both within CSIRO and with the broader technical community.

A turning point in David’s career was in 1968 when the CSIRO Chairman, Dr Jerry Price came to his office to ask ‘how do you make a more secure banknote?’ The interview canvasses many issues to do with the ‘bank project’.

In the next part of the interview, Dr Solomon discusses his appointment as Chief of the Division of Applied Organic Chemistry and his vision for developing research programs closely connected to the needs of the Australian chemical industry.

Dr Solomon was very much involved with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and talks about the importance of professional societies in connecting public sector researchers to their industry counterparts.

In the final stages of the interview Dr Solomon reflects on his post-CSIRO work and on the future role of public sector research in the national innovation system.


Interview recorded at Swinburne University of Technology (Hawthorn campus) on 12 January 2017 and 2 February 2017 as part of the CSIRO History Project.


Copyright owned by Swinburne University of Technology and CSIRO. Some re-use permitted (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)