Academy archive digitisation project boosted by generous donation

August 17, 2022


David Anstice AO. Photo: supplied.

A $100,000 donation by philanthropist and former pharmaceutical executive David Anstice AO will support the digitisation of the historic scientific collections held at the Australian Academy of Science.

The archives, housed in the Academy’s Shine Dome, contain the unique collections of some of Australia’s most famous scientists and have been declared of ‘immense research significance’.

“It seems important to me to keep the torch of science, in my case medical science, burning brightly,” Mr Anstice said, who is originally from Wagga Wagga, NSW but is now based in the United States.

The Academy’s digitisation of the archives program, which began in late 2020, is primarily funded by donations from Fellows and friends of the Academy and would not be possible without this support.

“The Australian Academy of Science, as the pre-eminent Australian scientific body which crosses numerous scientific disciplines, is eminently worthy of support from all who understand just how important science is to humankind, and how significant Australia’s past contributions have been in medicine, globally.”

Mr Anstice and Academy archivist Clare McLellan examine a folio in the Basser library at the Shine Dome.

Mr Anstice said he has a keen interest in history and archival work and is a collector of cricket memorabilia and family genealogy. “I think that preserving the history of any serious organisation or topic is an important cultural undertaking, so that the present can always be informed by the wisdom – or follies – of the past,” he said.

“What [scientists] learned and achieved, and what they found was unproductive, saves today’s scientific leaders from unfruitful pathways or opens up new avenues based on new insights.”

Mr Anstice worked for over 50 years in the biopharmaceuticals industry, both in Australia and the United States. He retired as a senior executive of Merck & Co in September 2008, having played a critical role in securing the global development and commercialisation rights to the HPV vaccine.

He also served on the board of CSL for 10 years and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2018 for his service to Australia–America business relations.

“My respect for medicine in Australia was established early in my career, when I had the opportunity to work across many medical disciplines,” Mr Anstice said.

“In that time, I learned to deeply appreciate the contributions of basic medical research … and the massive contributions of the research-based private sector in discovering and making medicines and vaccines that serve patient medical needs. Much of my career has thus been supporting ongoing research in medicine – in Australia and with global companies.

“I am very happy that I can support the important work of the in-house archivist,” Mr Anstice said. “My financial support of the Academy is one small way of recognising that the future can deliver even more value for subsequent generations of Australians.”

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