Basser Library and Fenner Archives

The Basser Library and Fenner Archives of the Australian Academy of Science hold a rich and varied collection of published and primary source material documenting the history of science in Australia. Over its 60-year history, the collection has evolved into a nationally significant resource that provides a valuable window into the history of Australian scientific discovery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Sir Adolph Basser was an optician, jeweller and philanthropist whose £25,000 donation in 1960 enabled the Academy to establish a library. The Basser Library was officially opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies in 1962. The library includes an extensive collection of books, and an uncounted selection of scientific journals, periodicals and proceedings.

The library includes the Fenner Archives, a vibrant repository of largely unpublished resources donated by Fellows of the Academy, prominent Australian scientists, and scientific organisations.

The Fenner Archives were established in 1962 by then research associate Ann Moyal and is named for the eminent microbiologist Professor Frank Fenner. The archives comprise nearly 230 sub-collections with an estimated page count numbering in the millions. A highlight is Professor Fenner’s own papers documenting his role as Chair of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication and his efforts towards the control of the rabbit plague in Australia. The Fenner Collection was added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2019.

Collection Highlights

The organisation

A caricature of Sir David Rivett, a Foundation Fellow of the Academy and former Chief Executive and Chairman of CSIR, with Arnold Richardson, then-current Chief Executive of CSIR (later known as CSIRO), May 1949. AAS MS083000068

Professor Frank Fenner

Original painting for the ANU National Graduate front cover, cartoon by PAT, Summer 1988. AAS MS143000198 Frank John Fenner Collection.

Virus disease of canary

Virus disease of canary, drawn by J R Ford while Macfarlane Burnet was undertaking a research fellowship at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. AAS MS098000001 Sir David Rivett Collection

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