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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 3

ASM Golden Jubilee

From the President

This history project and indeed all the ASM celebrations happening in 2009 have their origins in the meeting of Council held on the Gold Coast in 2006. It was at that meeting that then President, Julian Rood, had an inkling that our Golden Jubilee was approaching. It is perhaps a reflection of the fact that we can so quickly lose track of the past that no one could definitively name our year of foundation. After subsequent research revealed the significance of 1959, Council quickly agreed that 2009 should be a special year of celebration for us...

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Foreword

Reading the manuscript of this history was a real trip down memory lane for me. I enjoyed following the account of the changes that I had witnessed since joining as a foundation member, and later as an avid ‘stuffer’ of conference satchels, a joiner of its committees (branch and federal) and camp follower of annual conferences ever since (to my enlightenment and enjoyment).

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Preface and Acknowledgements

The history of the ASM is rich and dynamic. It is the story of an active organisation that has adapted to suit the changing needs of its members while continuing to provide a voice for the discipline of microbiology in Australia. Far from an administrative body weighed down by bureaucracy or formality, our research revealed a history of camaraderie, support, activities and events that reflect a healthy and strong organisation supported by a robust membership. In telling the story of the first 50 years of the Society, our hope is to reflect all ...

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Introduction - The beginnings of a society:

Every year Australian microbiologists gather. The locations alternate – Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and all over Australia. They gather to discuss the science of microbiology. The gatherings are world-renowned and attract high-profile speakers from Australia and around the world. Associated with the gatherings are highly anticipated traditions, the Rubbo Oration, the Frank Fenner Research Award, the ringing of the Nancy Atkinson Bell and the annual dinner to name just a few. These gatherings – the first one dating back to 1959...

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Frank Macfarlane Burnet

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet was born in Traralgon, Victoria, in 1899. He received his medical degree in 1924 from the University of Melbourne and performed research (1925-27) at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London. After receiving his PhD from the University of London (1928), Burnet – usually known as Mac – became Assistant Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research at Royal Melbourne Hospital. From 1944-65 he was Director of the Institute and Professor of Experimental Medicine at the University of Melbo...

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Chapter One - The need for a learned society: building a community

The location was Melbourne. The year was 1958. An ANZAAS Congress was underway. A small group of microbiologists got together and held a meeting. The topic for discussion was microbiology. But it was not the science of microbiology that was being debated. Rather, it was the need for a society dedicated to microbiology and to microbiologists – the need for an organisation that would bring those working in the discipline together and further the cause of this essential and boundary-crossing science.

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Nancy Atkinson

Born in Melbourne in 1910, Nancy Atkinson was educated at the University of Melbourne, graduating BSc in 1931 and MSc in 1932. She worked as a research scholar and demonstrator in the Department of Bacteriology in Melbourne from 1932-37, before moving to South Australia where she was to play a major role in the development of bacteriology in Adelaide.

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Chapter Two - Growth and professionalisation: towards a national, professional and scientific society

Immediately after its establishment, the Australian Society for Microbiology began to thrive. The founders of the ASM had been correct in their assessment of the need for the Society. By the second decade of its existence, membership numbers had swelled to over 1200. The services it provided for members had also diversified as the Society consolidated and became a strong voice of microbiology in Australia. Not only did the number of members grow, but the Scientific Meetings became more frequent and attracted international speakers, the committe...

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Sydney Rubbo

Born in Sydney in 1911, Sydney Dattilo Rubbo was educated at Sydney Boys’ High School and the University of Sydney (BSc, 1934) before travelling to London to further his studies. He obtained a diploma in bacteriology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1935) and was awarded a scholarship for microbiological research at the University of London (PhD, 1937). Returning to Australia in 1937, Rubbo took up an appointment as a senior lecturer in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Melbourne where he taught student...

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Chapter Three - Implementing change

The decision to incorporate, professionalise and nationalise the Australian Society for Microbiology heralded a transformation. After lengthy debate, spanning the best part of a decade, the steady evolution of the Society gave way to rapid change. Implementation commenced immediately. Membership categories changed and continued to evolve throughout the 1980s as the ASM adapted to the needs of its broadening membership base. Relationships with state branches and communication with members became increasingly important. Maintaining its unique cha...

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Frank Fenner

Frank John Fenner was born in Ballarat in 1914 and moved to Adelaide as a young child. He completed his undergraduate studies in medicine (1938) at the University of Adelaide, before obtaining a Diploma of Tropical Medicine (University of Sydney, 1940) and later a Doctor of Medicine (University of Adelaide, 1942). During World War II, Fenner served in the Australian Army Medical Corps, as a field ambulance medical officer, pathologist and malariologist. For his work in combating malaria in Papua New Guinea, Fenner received the award Member of t...

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Chapter Four - Strength from diversity

The ASM’s focus on building the microbiology community and providing high quality services to its members saw a number of further advances throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The introduction of paid staff, the employment of professional conference organisers and the purchase of premises for the establishment of a national office facilitated these aims. As the 1990s progressed, the roles and functions of the ASM diversified. Discipline-based Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that had already been formed consolidated and prospered and the ASM was conti...

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Nancy Millis

Born in Melbourne in 1922, Nancy Fannie Millis studied agriculture at the University of Melbourne, graduating with a Master of Agricultural Science in 1946. She spent a year studying agricultural methods in Papua New Guinea before travelling to the University of Bristol on a Boots Research Scholarship. It was here that Millis was introduced to fermentation, gaining her PhD in 1951.

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Conclusion - Towards the future: celebration of a Jubilee

The founders of the Australian Society for Microbiology were pioneers. They were idealists with a vision. They took decisive action in response to an identified need – a need for a scientific community that united microbiologists across Australia. They were motivated also by a desire to further the science of microbiology, so they created a learned society for microbiology. The year 2009 marks 50 years since the establishment of this Society. While it has changed markedly since 1959, it remains a vibrant, dynamic Society that continues t...

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Bibliography & Appendix

Presidents; Honorary Life Members; Rubbo Orators; Annual Scientific Meetings; National Council

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