Interest in history of Australian science reflected in Academy’s journal

February 19, 2020
The biographical memoir of entomologist Max Day features in the latest edition of Historical Records of Australian Science. 

Contributed by the journal’s Editors, Dr Sara Maroske and Professor Ian Rae

The January issue of the Academy’s journal, Historical Records of Australian Science, is rich with science policy, exemplified in two biographical memoirs and another article arising from on-going work on the history of CSIRO.

Entomologist Max Day (1915–2017) was an early enthusiast for conservation, representing Australia at international forums and leading the Academy to become involved in concern for the environment as a cross-disciplinary exercise. Botanist and plant ecologist Ralph Slatyer (1929–2012) contributed to environmental studies in Australia and as Australia’s ambassador to UNESCO. He is remembered for his role as Australia’s first chief scientist, when he oversaw the establishment of the cooperative research centres.

History of CSIRO

Garrett Upstill and Tom Spurling at Swinburne University are leading a project to assemble and analyse material that describes and explains the history of CSIRO. This issue features the way that CSIRO engaged with Australian industry in the late twentieth century. To some extent this role was forced on them by a requirement that they derive as much as 30% of their funding from non-government sources, which led to technology transfers, joint ventures and the growth of personal contacts.

There is no doubt that the dominant scientific figure of nineteenth-century Australia was Ferdinand von Mueller. The ‘Mueller project’ has produced several books and many scholarly articles, and in this issue Ian Rae and Sara Maroske write about the phytochemical laboratory that Mueller established in Melbourne, and the chemists he engaged to work there.

Graeme Cohen follows his book on the people, organisations and institutions of Australian mathematics with a bibliography of Australian mathematics books and pamphlets up to 1960 with insightful comments on the authors and their intended readerships.

The richness of scholarly interest in history of Australian science is reflected in the articles in this issue, in the book reviews—written by leading historians and compiled by Peter Hobbins—and in the 40th edition of the bibliography of history of Australian science, compiled by Helen Cohn and covering the twelve months to September 2019.

The Academy publishes the biographical memoirs on its website after a period following publication in the journal. Academy Fellows can access all the journal's content for free through the Fellows' page on our website.

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