Australia's Chief Scientist

Vale Professor Ralph Slatyer AC

27 July 2012

Australia’s first Chief Scientist, Professor Ralph Slatyer AC has sadly passed away at the age of 83.

Born in Melbourne and raised in Perth, Professor Slatyer contributed a great deal to Australian science and left behind a lasting legacy. Beginning his career as an agricultural science graduate, he joined the CSIRO in 1951 working in the Division of Land Research.

Professor Slatyer left the CSIRO in 1967 to become a Professor of Biology at the Australian National University and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975.

In 1978 Professor Slatyer accepted the position of Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO which took him to Paris for four years. On his return home in 1982, the Fraser Government appointed him Chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC), which was a Government “think tank” set up by the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, in the seventies.

During Professor Slatyer’s five year tenure as Chair, ASTEC was instrumental in lobbying for tax concessions for research and development in Australia. It wasn’t until 1989 though when Professor Slatyer made Australian history when he was appointed as the first Chief Scientist for Australia.

As Chief Scientist for Australia, Professor Slatyer directly advised the Prime Minister on important issues relating to science and technology both in Australia and abroad for the next 3 years. This appointment also meant that Professor Slatyer was largely responsible for the establishment of Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) in Australia, which still flourishes today by facilitating collaboration between business and researchers.

The role of Australia’s Chief Scientist continues today and while the job description and office has broadened somewhat, the original purpose of advising Government at its highest level still remains the primary focus due to the successful foundations laid by Professor Slatyer.

The current Chief Scientist, Professor Chubb, was a great admirer of Professor Slatyer’s work and was saddened to hear the news.

“Professor Slatyer was a remarkable man and an excellent ambassador for science. He has left behind a lasting legacy and I’m honoured to be working in a role that was originated by him. My thoughts are with his family at this time”