Academy’s Fenner collection to be digitised with the support of international grant

July 29, 2021
Hand-written notes from one of John Fenner's diaries, and John Fenner declaring that smallpox had been eradicated
The work of Professor Frank Fenner AC CMG MBE FAA FRS and others resulted in the eradication of smallpox. His notes from 8 May included the following: “ … Pres Exec Board presented Resolution 1, accepting eradication of spx. Pres of Assembly (Kuwait) said Are there any objections? ½ sec. There are no objections – banged hammer.”  (AAS MS14 3000309 page 104). Images: Australian Academy of Science

The manuscript collection of Professor Frank Fenner, held in the Australian Academy of Science archives, has been awarded a grant from the Asia Culture Centre (ACC) and the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP).

Professor Frank Fenner (1914–2010) is widely known for his significant contribution to public health, first as principal adviser to and then as Chairman of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication. Fenner made major research contributions to the understanding of viruses and the literature of microbiology. He once stated that his proudest achievement was standing before the World Health Assembly on 8 May 1980 and declaring smallpox gone from the Earth. The moment marked the first time in human history such a disease had been entirely wiped out.

The ACC-MOWCAP Grant Program supports archives, museums and libraries in the Asia-Pacific to undertake innovative projects to preserve and provide access to their collections. The initiative supports the overall aim of the UNESCO Memory of the World to enhance the preservation of humanity’s documentary heritage.

The grant will enable the Academy, in collaboration with the National Library of Australia, to digitise significant parts of Professor Fenner's collected papers that reflect his enormous contribution to both scientific research and the broader community over eight decades of work.

The Academy archives

Digitisation project appeal

Work has begun to professionally digitise historically important collection material held in the Academy archives. This project is primarily funded by donations from Fellows and friends of the Academy and would not be possible without this support.

Donations from organisations and individuals are welcome and can be made via the Academy website or by contacting the Academy’s Philanthropy Manager, Isobel Griffin, by email or phone on 02 6201 9471.

Accessing the digital collection

A searchable catalogue of archive and library collections, including the Edgeworth David Collection, can be accessed via the Academy website. Some material may only be available by special permission.Search Academy collections or contact the Academy to enquire.

Volunteering at the archives

The Academy is seeking volunteers to work with the archivist. Opportunities exist to assist with digitising collections and to work remotely to transcribe and extract vital information from our nationally significant history of science archives. Contact archivist Clare McLellan at to enquire.

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