The Origins of CSIRO:

Science and the Commonwealth Government 1901-1926

The Origins of CSIRO

March 16th, 1966, marked the jubilee of Commonwealth sponsored scientific research in Australia. In 1916 the Commonwealth Government set up an Advisory Council of Science and Industry. This was the culmination of an interest in scientific research which went back to the very beginning of federation and had been expressed by active attempts to bring science to the aid of agriculture.

This book is an account of the developments which led up to the formation of the Advisory Council by the Hughes Government in 1916. It carries the story on to 1926, when a later Prime Minister, Mr S. M. Bruce, introduced the Bill to found the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In those days there were vivid contrasts in the views of scientists, politicians and men of affairs as to how science could most effectively influence the nation's future.

  1. Page v
  2. Page 1

    The Federal Government showed some interest in the application of science to agriculture from the first year of federation. Bills to establish a Bureau of Agriculture were introduced in 1909 and again in 1913 but failed to become law.

  3. Page 11

    The exigencies of war impelled the Imperial Government to set up, in July 1915, an organization for scientific research in Britain to serve the nation during and after the war. When news of this reached Australia later in the year, moves initiated in Melbourne lead to the announcement by the Prime Minister, W. M. Hughes, that a similar scheme would be established in Australia under the auspices of the Commonwealth Government.

  4. Page 43

    Formation of an Advisory Council of Science and Industry. A widely representative conference was called in January by the Prime Minister to discuss a National Laboratory to be established by the Commonwealth Government. It was decided as a first step to set up an Advisory Council of Science and Industry, to be replaced as soon as legislation could be passed by an Institute of Science and Industry. W. M. Hughes left in January to visit Great Britain taking with him Gerald Light-foot to report on research institutions in Great Britain and the United States.

  5. Page 57

    The Advisory Council of Science and Industry, through its Executive Committee, went vigorously to work making a census of problems to be dealt with and of scientists and facilities available to handle them. In July 1917 there was a stormy session with the Prime Minister. In April 1918 Dr F. M. Gellatly was appointed director of the proposed Institute of Science and Industry.

  6. Page 77

    Gellatly worked with the Advisory Council as member during 1918 and became chairman January 1919. He worked for the Bill to establish the Institute but died suddenly in September of that year. Professor Masson resigned from the Executive and from the Council when he learnt that the Bill had been altered in ways he believed vital. The Institute of Science and Industry Act 1920 passed into law on 14 September 1920.

  7. Page 106

    The Institute was established with George Knibbs as the single director but adequate funds were not forthcoming and the organization failed to develop as had been hoped. In 1925 S. M. Bruce, having decided to reorganize the Institute, convened a conference in May to make recommendations and invited Sir Frank Heath, head of the D.S.I.R. in Great Britain, to advise his Government on the best form of reorganization.

  8. Page 135

    The new Bill to amend the Institute of Science and Industry Act 1920 was prepared after the reports from the conference of 1925 and a report from Sir Frank Heath had been studied by the newly appointed Executive Committee: G. A. Julius, W. J. Newbigin and Professor A. C. D. Rivett. The Bill passed all stages in the House within a month and was assented to 23 June 1926. This Act established the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The first meeting of the Council was opened by the Prime Minister, S. M. Bruce, on 22 June 1926.

  9. Page 182
  10. Page 201