Paul Wellings, interviewed by Tom Spurling and Terry Healy, 19 January 2018

By September 17th, 2017

Paul Wellings was Chief of the Entomology Division in 1995. In 1999 he returned to the CSIRO as Deputy Chief Executive.

Edited transcript (PDF – 390 KB)

Interview summary

In the first part of the interview, Paul talks about his early experiences as a child of a British army officer serving overseas, including his time as a boarder at the Royal Grammar School in Lancaster from the age of seven onwards. He discusses his choice to study biology at Kings College in London, which included a new course on fundamental principles in quantitative biology.

Paul moved to Durham University for an advanced Masters course in ecology funded by the UK Environmental Research Council and then to the University of East Anglia in Norwich for his PhD supervised by Professor Tony Dixon. Paul talks about his recruitment to CSIRO in 1981 through the connection between one of his PhD examiners and the then Chief of the Division of Entomology, Dr Doug Waterhouse.

He describes his experiences establishing his research at the Division’s small Sydney laboratory in Warrawee, a Northern suburb of Sydney. The Division closed that laboratory in 1987 and Paul moved to the Black Mountain laboratories in Canberra. He discusses his considerable research achievements in the biological control of aphids. Paul tells of his appointment as the Assistant Chief of the Division of Entomology in 1994 and how, soon after, made a conscious decision to shift from science to leadership – ‘I think ’97 is the last paper that I wrote in anger’. He became the Chief of the Division in 1995. In the middle part of the interview, Paul recounts his success in restoring the scientific and financial health of the Division.

This success caught the eye of the Chief Executive, Dr Malcolm McIntosh, who arranged for his secondment to the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Tourism. He gained valuable insights into the workings on Government.

Paul discusses what he would have done if appointed the Chief Executive of CSIRO after the death of Dr McIntosh and his subsequent career as a Vice‐Chancellor at Lancaster and Wollongong.
The interview concludes with a discussion of Paul’s view about the place of CSIRO in modern Australia.


Tom Spurling
Terry Healy


Interview recorded at the University of Wollongong on 19 January 2018 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)