Mr George Bornemissza stands in front of the four-wheel drive with three other men, in Africa.

CSIRO has been conducting research in Australia and around the world since 1926.

The history of CSIRO

A summary CSIRO’s history and its achievements.

  • 6 February 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO's origins date from the early years of World War I.

In 1916, the Australian Government established the Advisory Council of Science and Industry as the first step towards a ‘national laboratory’.

Several years later, a report on how to organise Australian science resulted in the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1926.

The aim of the CSIR was to carry out scientific research to assist primary and secondary industries in Australia — farming, mining and manufacture.

In its first year, the CSIR had 41 scientists working in rented rooms at a technical college in Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


During the 1930s and 1940s, research was conducted in the fields of:

  • animal pests and diseases
  • plant pests and diseases
  • fuel problems, especially liquid fuels
  • preservation of foodstuffs, especially cold storage
  • forest products.

The onset of World War II (1939-45), saw the Council conducting research to assist the Australian Defence Forces, in areas such as radar.

After World War II ended, CSIR research expanded to include areas such as:

In 1949, CSIR was renamed CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

  • building materials
  • wool textiles
  • coal
  • atmospheric physics
  • physical metallurgy
  • assessment of land resources.

In 1949, CSIR ceased all secret or 'classified' work for the military and was renamed CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

1951 to present

Over the following six decades, CSIRO has expanded its activities to almost every field of primary, secondary and tertiary industry.

These include research into:

  • the environment
  • human nutrition
  • conservation
  • urban and rural planning
  • water.

Some of CSIRO’s scientific breakthroughs include:

  • advanced radio astronomy
  • atomic absorption spectroscopy
  • biological control of rabbits
  • gene shears
  • plastic (polymer) banknotes
  • night and day contact lenses.

Explore CSIRO’s history through our collection of stories in Our History.