Keith Boardman, interviewed by Tom Spurling and Terry Healy, 5 December 2017

By Helen WolffSeptember 17th, 2018

Keith Boardman was appointed to the CSIRO Executive in 1977 and then as Chairman in 1985 and Chief Executive in 1987


Edited transcript (PDF – 392 KB)

Interview summary

Dr Keith Boardman was born in Geelong on 16 August 1926. In the first part of this interview he talks about his childhood in regional Victoria. He includes an account of his father enlisting in the First World War as Wilfred Nash, the family name of his girlfriend! He also describes his family experiences during the Depression and his early schooling. His chemistry teacher at Geelong High School stimulated his interest in chemistry and helped him to get the Rushall Scholarship to Melbourne High School where the teachers were ‘absolutely first rate’.

Keith went to the University of Melbourne on a Dafyyd Lewis Trust Scholarship where he was influenced by the German immigrant physical chemist, Dr Eric Heymann. Keith commenced work for CSIR on 26 April 1949, as a Research Officer in the Wool Textile Research Section in Geelong. It was during his work into the physico‐chemical relationship between synthetic resins and the wool fibre at Geelong that sparked his long‐term interest in the study of proteins.

Keith talks about his growing interest in proteins and how, with the support of Dr Lipson (his Officer‐in‐Charge) he took leave without pay to do a PhD at the University of Cambridge. In this part of the interview, he recounts how he met Dr John Falk at a cricket game in Cambridge that eventually led to your appointment as a Research Officer at the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra. He expands on his great contributions to plant physiology and biochemistry, particularly to understanding photosynthesis.

Keith was appointed to the CSIRO Executive in 1977 and in the talks extensively about his contributions to the management of the Organisation from that time, to his appointment as Chairman in 1985 and as Chief Executive in 1987. He discusses his interactions with Ministers, Commonwealth officials and CSIRO Board members. He outlines his major contributions to planning and research priorities. Finally, Keith shares his views on the place of CSIRO in the current national innovation system.


Interview recorded in Forrest (ACT) on 5 December 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)