David Henry (Dave) Solomon

By July 17th, 2013

David Henry Solomon was born in Adelaide, South Australia on 19 November 1929. He received an Associate Diploma of Chemistry from the Sydney Technical College in 1950. He completed his BSc (Hons) from the NSW University of Technology (now the University of New South Wales) in 1952 for his thesis titled: ‘The Oxidation of Some Active Methylene Systems’ and his MSc at the same university in 1955 with a thesis entitled: ‘The Oxidation of Some Active Methyl and Methylene Systems’. He completed his PhD at the University of New South Wales in 1959 with a thesis entitled: ‘Studies on the Chemistry of Carbonyl Compounds’. He was awarded a DSc from the University of New South Wales in 1968 for his thesis: ‘Studies on the Chemistry of Coating Compounds’ and an Honorary DAppSc from the University of Melbourne in 2005.

He began his career at what is now Dulux Australia. There he developed a strong interest in polymers, the binder that holds paint together. During the course of his degrees (1946-59), he was employed as a Trainee Chemist by Balm Paints (later the name changed to Dulux Australia). He worked in all aspects of the paint industry from quality control and checking factory production through to factory planning and the development of new paint systems. For the period 1955-63, he was the leader of the Resin and Polymer Research Section of Dulux. In 1959-60, he was seconded to ICI Paints Division, Slough, UK to further develop patentable ideas which he had originated in Dulux, Australia.

This period also broadened his experience and exposure to the coatings industry, and he attended conferences in Canada and the UK as a representative of Dulux Paints. His book The Chemistry of Organic Film Formers was published in 1967 by John Wiley in New York, (reprinted in 1977) and is still used and available as a reference work.


His interest in research was so strong that he joined, in 1963, the CSIRO Division of Applied Mineralogy as a Senior Research Scientist, to further his studies in Polymer Chemistry. In the period up to 1970, he was promoted to Senior Principal Research Scientist. At this time he became interested in the interaction between mineral fillers and organic polymers. As a result of a lecture given to the American Clay Mineral Society in 1968, an arrangement was reached between the Georgia Kaolin Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey and CSIRO, for him to be seconded to work at Georgia Kaolin during 1968-69.

The inventions that arose from this period with the Georgia Kaolin Company were available free of charge to CSIRO for use in Australia. This period saw his interest in mineral/organic interactions develop considerably and resulted in 18 publications as well as two reference books ‘ The Chemistry of Pigments and Fillers, published by John Wiley, New York (1983) and The Catalytic Properties of Pigments, Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry Inc., Atlanta, Georgia (1977).

In 1970, he transferred to the CSIRO Division of Applied Chemistry and was promoted to the grade of Chief Research Scientist. In this capacity he established the Polymer Research Group within the Division.

In 1974, CSIRO reorganised its chemistry divisions and he became the Foundation Chief of the Division of Applied Organic Chemistry (later the Division of Chemicals & Polymers), a position he held for 17 years. As Chief, he continued his polymer research. His main research achievements were in the field of free-radical polymerisation as it applies to the synthesis of polymers. He led the team that developed the use of plastic films and OVDs (Optically Variable Devices), leading to the release of the commemorative bicentennial $10 note in 1988. He also led the team that discovered nitroxide-mediated living radical polymerisation (NMP). The reviewer of his paper describing this wrote:

This Highlight provides the story of one of the most remarkable conceptual advances from the field of polymer chemistry from the past 20 years. The author of this work has influenced the field of radical polymerisation more than any other and it is beautiful to see how his discoveries came about. Very few from the field knew the truth about the discovery of Living Radical Polymerisation and therefore this Highlight will be a must on every polymer scientist’s desk.

This polymer research resulted in the publication of the book Step Growth Polymerizations and the reference books on Free Radical Polymerization.

His industrial achievements are best exemplified by the Australian Bicentennial $10 Banknote, where he was a principal inventor as well as the project leader from the inception through to the technology transfer stage of the project. He also invented and transferred to production novel hydrogels (Manufactured by NuSep in Sydney).

In 1980-81, he spent a considerable amount of time on secondment to the Reserve Bank to assist in the transfer of the technology related to Australia’s plastic banknotes. In 1986-87, he served as Acting Director of the CSIRO Institute of Industrial Technologies with responsibilities for several CSIRO Divisions.


In 1990, he accepted an invitation to become the ICI Australia ‘ Masson Professor and Head of School of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne, a position he held until he ‘retired’ in 1995. Since that time he continued as a Professorial Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the same university with interests in the use of polymers in minimising water evaporation and in suppressing talc in nickel ore flotation processes.

David and Valerie Solomon Award

In early 2019, David and Valerie Solomon donated funds to ATSE for the establishment of the David and Valerie Solomon Award.

The award is an early-mid career award for a science or technology graduate working in academia/research or industry R&D who demonstrates substantial ability to foster research-industry collaboration and knowledge transfer for the benefit of Australia. The inaugural award will be presented in late 2019.

Honours and awards

For his role in the discoveries and subsequent leadership of the team responsible for the production of the world’s first plastic banknote, Professor Solomon has received many awards, including:


2016 Commander of Order of Australia,
1990 Member of Order of Australia, for contributions to science and technology, particularly in the field of Polymer Chemistry

Fellowship of Academies

2007 Fellow of Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE)
2004 Fellow of Royal Society (FRS)
1975 Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering (FTSE)
1975 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA)
1966 Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (FRACI)

Medals and prizes

2011 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, with Ezio Rizzardo
2009 CSIRO Medal for Lifetime Achievement
2008 Innovation Award, Society of Plastic Engineers (Aust & NZ branch)
2007 Sellafield Ltd Award for Engineering Excellence (Highly Commended), Institution of Chemical Engineers
2007 NES Award for Novel Engineering Solutions, Institution of Chemical Engineers
2006 Victoria Prize for Science
2005 Doctor of Applied Science (honoris causa), University of Melbourne
2004 CRC for Polymers Chairman’s Award for Excellence in Commercialisation
2004 Named in the Bulletin magazine’s Australia’s Smart 100
2002 RK Murphy Medal, Industrial Chemistry Division, RACI for contributions to the Banknote project (Australian Plastic Banknotes)
2001 Centenary Medal, for contributions to Polymer Science
1994 Clunies Ross National Science and Technology Award
1990 CSIRO Medal, as part of the Specialty Polymers Group, CSIRO Division of Chemicals and Polymers for developing innovative methods of preparing polymeric materials
1988 Ian William Wark Medal and Lecture, Australian Academy of Science
1988 The Australian Bicentennial Science Achievement Award
1987 CSIRO Medal, for significant research achievement in Australia ‘ for the banknote technology
1985 Leighton Memorial Medal (Royal Australian Chemical Institute), Lecture: ‘Research for the Chemical Industry ‘ Past, Present and Future’. This award recognises contribution to science in the broadest sense
1978 Polymer Medal (Royal Australian Chemical Institute). The Polymer Medal is bestowed for achievement in Polymer Science
1976 David Syme Research Prize (University of Melbourne), awarded for the best original scientific work produced in Australia during the preceding two years ‘ preference given to work of value in the industrial and commercial interests of the country
1971 HG Smith Memorial Medal (Royal Australian Chemical Institute). ‘The Synthesis and properties of Macromolecules’. This medal is awarded for contributions to the development of a particular branch of chemical science, as judged by published papers over the preceding 10 years
1968 Archibald D Olle Prize (Royal Australian Chemical Institute). The Archibald D Olle Prize, which recognises the most significant publication by a member of the Institute in the preceding 12 months, was awarded for the book The Chemistry of Organic Film Formers

Named lectures

2001 RACI Solomon Lecture (Inaugural)
2001 World Congress of Chemical Engineering Lecture: The Development of Australia’s Plastic Banknotes
2000 Robert Price memorial lecture
1994 University of Melbourne Occasional Address, Forging Links between Universities and Industry
1993 SCIV Occasional Address, ‘Polymers: Takeaway Packaging and Fertility’
1992 Deans Lecture Series, ‘Polymers: Takeaway Packaging and Fertility’
1991 Melbourne University Chemical Society Lecturer
1991 Keynote Lecturer, 2nd Pacific Polymer Conference, Otsu Japan, 1991, ‘Recent Developments in Free Radical Polymerization’
1991 Liversidge Lecture, (Australia and New Zealand Society for Advancement of Science), ‘Bicentennial $10 Banknote, Success or Failure?’
1991 Polymer ’91 Lecture
1990 Melbourne University Chemical Society Lecture
1990 Forensic Science Lecture
1989 Lady Masson Memorial lecture, (The University of Melbourne), Lecture: ‘Australia’s Plastic Banknote Technology: The Beginning or the End of an Era of Scientific Research’
1989 NSW Alumni Society Lecture
1987 Australian Chemicals Specialties Manufacturers Association Annual Convention
1987 IUPAC Lecturer ‘ Free Radical Polymerization Symposium, St Marguerita, Italy
1986 NSW Alumni Lecture
1986 Jones Lecture, (University of Queensland), Title: ‘Australian Manufacturing Industry: Third Time Lucky?’
1985 Australian Academy of Science ‘ Advanced Materials Symposium
1985 IUPAC Polymer Lecture
1984 IUPAC Invited Lecturer, Amhurst, USA
1982 Hartung Youth Lecturer 1982
1980 Applied Research Medal, (Royal Australian Chemical Institute), Lecture: ‘From Clays to Defect Groups in Polymers’. This award is for contribution to industrial research in Australia
1977 Liversidge Lecture, (Australia and New Zealand Society for Advancement of Science), Minerals, Macromolecules and Man


  • Solomon DH, 2009, Personal communication.