Our history

Ƶis Australia's national university and has a unique history among Australian universities. Learn about our history, and how it continues to influence the work we do here today on the page below. Visit to learn more about our well preserved heritage and principles.

Ƶcelebrated its 75th anniversary on 1st August, 2021. Journey back in time with our photo gallery that celebrates some of the people, moments and memories that have shaped our history at the ANU.
 
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Picture of Genevieve Bell

Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell became Vice-Chancellor

Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell AO FAHA FTSE became the 13th Vice-Chancellor and President on 1 January 2024.

The Hon Julie Bishop

The Hon Julie Bishop became ƵChancellor

The Hon Julie Bishop became Chancellor of Ƶon 1 January 2020.

Professor Brian P. Schmidt became Vice-Chancellor

Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS became Vice-Chancellor on 1 January 2016.

Director's residence

The Director's Residence is partially restored

The Mt Stromlo Heritage Trail is launched. The Director's Residence is partially restored.

Bushfire threatens Siding Spring Observatory

On 13 January 2013, the facility was threatened by a huge bushfire and firestorm. Eighteen staff were evacuated to Coonabarabran. Three buildings were destroyed: 'The Lodge' accommodation used by visiting researchers, the Director's Cottage and the Fire Station. Bushfire prevention measures had been implemented and were credited with the protection of the telescopes. Since this time Ƶhas been undertaking a program of rebuilding at the site, restoring much of its lost functionality. Several of the damaged buildings are now managed as ruins and stand as a stark reminder of the fire. Optical astronomy is no longer undertaken at this site, however recent development of the site's manufacturing and industrial capabilities ensure the site is a thriving and world class research centre.

Nobel Prize in Physics

Mt Stromlo's Professor Brian Schmidt and his research partners are awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)

Partnership to build the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile

Mt Stromlo astronomers and engineers join an international partnership to build the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile.

The Great Daylight Comet

Every few years a comet becomes bright enough to be easily seen with the naked eye. The discovery of C/2006 P1 on Aug 7, 2006 was a significant event, as this comet is considerably brighter than Halley’s Comet. The comet was discovered with the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.

Advance Instrumentation and Technology Centre (RSAA)

First phase of the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre (AITC) completed

In 2006, the first phase of construction is completed on the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre (AITC) which will continue the design and manufacturing of astronomical instruments.

Forming seven ƵColleges

The formation of seven ƵColleges, grouping together Research Schools, Faculties and Centres.

Outreach Telescopes (Mt Stromlo Archives

Telescopes for visitor outreach

Three small telescopes with domes are constructed in 2005 on the site of the former Workshops for use in visitor outreach.

The National Institute of the Arts join with the ANU

The National Institute of the Arts (NITA) amalgamates with the Faculty of Arts.

Medical School opens to students

The ƵMedical School is accredited by the Australian Medical Council for the first intake of students.

Bushfires at Stromlo (Actew)

Bushfires severly impact Canberra and the ANU

On 18 January, Mt Stromlo Observatory is devastated by bushfire. Telescopes, workshops, the original Observatory Building, the Director's Residence and many of the original houses are destroyed, and the Weston research facilities are severely.

Restructuring the University

In June the ƵCouncil announces a major restructure of University governance including the creation of Deputy Vice-Chancellors for Research and Education and the establishment of twelve virtual National Institutes

Start of the National Field Robotics Facility

A joint venture between Ƶand the Universities of Sydney and Wollongong establish the National Field Robotics Facility at Spring Valley Farm.

Evidence that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate

Following observations of supernovae, Mt Stromlo researcher Brian Schmidt (along with two other astronomers from the United States) publishes evidence that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.

EOS Satellite Ranging Facility (Mt Stromlo Archives)

The Satellite Laser Ranger Observatory is installed on Mt Stromlo

The Satellite Laser Ranger Observatory is installed on Mt Stromlo. It is built and operated by Electro Optic Systems Pty Ltd for Geoscience Australia.

The University welcomes new additions

The University Archives is established. The Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories become the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA). The Asia Pacific School of Economics and Management (later Government) is established.

University's 50th anniversary

Ƶcelebrates its 50th anniversary with a program of academic and social events.

Hermann Wehner shows visitors through the Exploratory, 1990s (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Opening of the Mt Stromlo Visitor's Centre

The Mt Stromlo Visitor's Centre or 'Exploratory' is opened.

New centres are established

In the Institute of Advanced Studies, the Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering (RSISE) is established. The Centre for Middle Eastern and Central Asia Sudies (from 1999, the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies) is established in the Faculty of Arts.

Ƶastronomers discover expanding universe

Perhaps the greatest astronomical contribution was the discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Professor Brian Schmidt formed the High-Z Supernova Search Team in 1994 to observe the characteristics of stellar explosions – or supernovae. Some work for this project was undertaken using the AAT and the Ƶ2.3m Telescope.

Opening the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology

In the Faculties, a new Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology is established.

The Canberra Institute of the Arts joins with the ANU

The Canberra Institute of the Arts, comprising the Canberra School of Music and the Canberra School of Art, amalgamates with ANU.

Great Melbourne Telescope in use for MACHO project (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Attempt to solve the mystery of 'dark matter'

Mt Stromlo embarks on the MACHO (Massive Astronomical Compact Halo Objects) project, in an attempt to solve the mystery of the Universe's missing mass 'dark matter'.

Changes for the Research School of Physical Sciences

The Research School of Physical Sciences becomes the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering (RSPSE).

Establishing the ƵGraduate School

The ƵGraduate School is established, intended to coordinate graduate teaching and resources across the University and to provide greater cohesion between the Institute of Advanced Studies and the Faculties.

Establishment of the ƵSupercomputer Facility

The University purchases a 'Fujitsu FACOM VP50 vector processor' and establishes the ƵSupercomputer Facility to house it.

Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories become independent centres

Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories separate from the Research School of Physical Sciences to become independent centres within ANU. Prime Minister Bob Hawke and other dignitaries visit Mt Stromlo to observe the close approach of Halley's Comet.

A new telescope for the observatory

A new 2.3 metre telescope is opened at the Siding Spring Observatory, which was closely linked with the Department of Astronomy in the Research School of Physical Sciences.

Observatory showing AAO and UK Schmidt Telescopes, 1980s (Source: National LIbrary of Australia)

Bob Hawke opens the University's largest telescope

The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, opened the University's largest telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.

The oldest star is discovered

Stromlo scientists Mike Bessell and John Norris discover the oldest star, a record which stands for over 20 years. The same team reclaimed this title in 2014.

Removal of Uppsala Schmidt to Siding Spring, 1981 (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Uppsala Schmidt telescope moves

Uppsala Schmidt telescope moves to Siding Spring Observatory.

Renaming the School of General Studies

The School of General Studies formally renamed The Faculties.

Opening the Women's Studies Program

After extended debate, a separate Women's Studies Program in the Faculty of Arts came into being.

Purchase of the Spring Valley Farm

Spring Valley Farm is purchased by Ƶto operate as an Animal Science Field Laboratory for the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

Noel Dunbar & Joy London signing transfer to ANU

Establishment of the Kioloa Coastal Campus

Miss Joy London bequeathed the 348 hectare property to Ƶon 1 March 1975.

The Humanities Research Centre is established

The Humanities Research Centre (HRC) is established as another important 'centre' in the University.

Buildings at NARU, 1986 (Source: ANU)

Establishment of the North Australia Research Unit

The North Australia Research Unit (NARU) was established in 1973 to specialise in research in northern Australia and to provide a base and logistic support for Ƶand other Australian and overseas institutions undertaking research in northern Australia.

Establishing the Centre for Resource & Environmental Studies

The Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies (CRES) is established, part of a trend to establish what was sometimes referred to as a 'third dimension', namely units and centres within the University

Separating departments

A decision is made to create a separate Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) from departments in the Research School of Physical Sciences.

Commonwealth Time Service departs

In 1968, the Commonwealth Time Service departs the Mount Stromlo Observatory.

Opening the Computer Centre

The Computer Centre was established, intended to serve users campus wide.

Establishment of the Warramunga Seismic & Infrasound Station

A twenty element seismic array was established at the site in 1968 and has been operated by Ƶsince then. Today the site also operates a WRAB Broadband Seismometer on behalf of the University of California, San Diego and an Infrasound Array which has operated since the early 1970s.

Opening new research schools

The Research School of Chemistry (RSC) and the Research School of Biological Sciences (RSBS) are established bringing the number of research schools to six.

Official opening of Sididng Spring Observatory, 1965 (Source: National Library of Australia)

Siding Spring Observatory officially opens

Siding Spring Observatory was officially opened on 5 April 1965. The University had set up three telescopes, together with supporting facilities such as sealed roads, staff accommodation, electricity and water.

The Australian Forestry School accepts its first students

The Australian Forestry School, which had been established in Canberra since 1927, accepted its first students as a department in the ƵFaculty of Science.

Flooding in Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin is flooded, skirting the southern edge of the Ƶcampus

First building constructed at Siding Spring Observatory

The first building constructed on the site was the 40-inch Telescope.

Appointing the first female professor

Hanna Neumann is appointed the University's first female professor, as Professor of Mathematics in the School of General Studies.

Duffield Building completed

The Duffield Building is constructed to accommodate research students and staff at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

New libraries are opened

The two University Library Buildings are opened, the R G Menzies Building and the J B Chifley Building.

Siding Spring becomes a field station

The growth and sprawl of Canberra, ACT, developed rapidly and it was in the late 1950s that artificial lights from the nearby suburbs began to impact upon the observational capacity of the Mt Stromlo Observatory. In May 1962, the final decision was made by the ƵVice-Chancellor Leonard Huxley that Siding Spring would become the site for the field station.

Establishing the Faculty of Oriental Studies

The School of General Studies establishes a new faculty, the Faculty of Oriental Studies. In 1970, it became the Faculty of Asian Studies.

Reaching New Guinea

The New Guinea Research Unit, part of the Research School of Pacific Studies, begins operations with a small group of support staff and academics located in Canberra and New Guinea. The Unit fostered interdisciplinary work on New Guinea among Ƶacademics.

Residents occupy Bruce Hall

Bruce Hall, the first residential hall for undergraduate students on campus, is occupied.

Computer work at Stromlo, this is not the IBM 610 (Mt Stromlo Archives)

First computer used at ANU

An IBM 610 computer is rented to assist in the analysis of data. It is the first computer to be used by ANU.

Canberra University College becomes ANU

Ƶamalgamates with Canberra University College. CUC becomes the School of General Studies at Ƶand undergraduates become part of Ƶlife for the first time. In 1960 Ƶstill had its four central research schools, the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), the Research School of Physical Sciences (RSPhysS), the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) and the Research School of Pacific Studies (RSPaS), while the School of General Studies had Faculties of Arts, Economics, Law and Science.

Mt. Stromlo Observatory joins the ANU

Ƶ through association with the Department of Astronomy in the Research School of Physical Sciences assumes control of the Mount Stromlo Observatory from the Department of the Interior, and the name is formally changed to Mount Stromlo Observatory. Bart Bok is appointed Director of the Observatory, and Head of the ƵDepartment of Astronomy.

Construction of 74 inch dome (Wehner Collection, Mt Stromlo Archives)

New telescopes in operation

The 26-inch Yale-Columbia Telescope and Stromlo's largest telescope, the 74-inch reflector, commences operation. In conjunction with the University of Uppsala in Sweden, the Uppsala Schmidt telescope is erected at Mt Stromlo.

Celebrating twenty-five years

Canberra University College celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.

University House opens

In February 1954, University House is officially opened.

Forming the Archives of Business and Labour

Noel Butlin, an economic historian in the Research School of Social Sciences, begins collecting Australian business records, which come to form the basis of the University's Archives of Business and Labour (now the Noel Butlin Archives Centre).

The laboratories for the Research School of Physcial Sciences are opened

The laboratories for the Research School of Physical Sciences, the University's first permanent buildings, are opened.

Bushfire at Stromlo (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Bushfire attacks Mt Stromlo

In February, a bushfire attacks Mt Stromlo, workshops and part of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory (CSO) building are destroyed.

The first Chancellor

The University's first Chancellor, Lord Bruce, is installed.

Conferring the first degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws

On the 7th of December 1951, the Ƶconfers its first degree of an Honorary Doctor of Laws on Sir Robert Garran, one of the authors of the Australian Constitution and a long-time advocate of university education in Canberra.

First meeting of the ƵCouncil

12th of July 1951- First meeting of the ƵCouncil, which succeeded the Interim Council appointed in 1946.

Marking 50 years of Federation

From July to September of 1975, a series of seminars on science, Commonwealth-State relations and federalism held to mark 50 years of Federation.

The arrival of academic staff members

The first academic staff members arrive to take up their appointments at ANU. At this time, there were few buildings to house them.

Spring Valley Farm Homestead (Source: ANU)

Beginnings of the Spring Valley Farm

The homestead on the site was said to have been constructed in 1949, and several of the outbuildings were constructed during the 1950s, being used as a pastoral property before Ƶpurchased the property.

Laying the foundations of the John Curtin School of Medical Research

24 October 1949 - Foundation stones for the John Curtin School of Medical Research, the Research School of Physical Sciences and University House laid by Ben Chifley, Prime Minister and John Dedman, Minister for Post-War Reconstruction.

Shaping the University

In Easter of 1948, significant meetings occur between the Interim Council and the Academic Advisory Committee, consisting of Florey, Hancock, Oliphant and the anthropologist Raymond Firth on the shape the national university was to take. The meetings took place in the Institute of Anatomy Building, which now houses ScreenSound Australia, the National Screen and Sound Archive.

The first librarian

The University's first librarian, A L G McDonald, was appointed to begin gathering together the University Library's collections.

The first Vice-Chancellor

In March of 1948, Sir Douglas Copland was appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Designing the University

In late 1947, Brian Lewis, Professor of Architecture at the University of Melbourne was appointed Consulting Architect to design the University's major buildings.

The Interim Council of the University's first meeting

In September of 1946, the first meeting of the Interim Council of the University took place in the Senate Committee Room in Parliament House.

Involving prominent academics

In April of 1946, H C Coombs meets with prominent academics in England, some of them Australian expatriates, including the medical scientist Sir Howard Florey, the historian W K Hancock and the physicist Mark Oliphant, to discuss the proposed Australian National University.

Passing the Bill by Federal Parliament

On the 1 August 1946, the Bill establishing Ƶ is passed by Federal Parliament.

Establishing a National University

From late 1944 to 1945, discussions between intellectuals and administrators, including H C 'Nugget' Coombs, Alfred Conlon, and Roy Douglas 'Pansy' Wright set the scene for the establishment of a National University.

Commonwealth Time Service at Stromlo (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Commonwealth Time Service and the Great Melbourne Telescope acquired

The Observatory begins the construction of the dome for the Great Melbourne Telescope. Director Woolley shifts the focus from solar to stellar astronomy. He begins negotiations to acquire more suitable telescopes.

Optical Munitions manufacture at Stromlo, 1940s (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Impact of the Second World War on Mt Stromlo Observatory

The Second World War dramatically changes the role of the observatory. The Commonwealth Solar Observatory operates Optical Munitions Factory, designing and manufacturing gun-sights and other equipment to aid the war effort. The Observatory swells in size - a number of new workshops are constructed, and the staff numbers grow from 10 to 70.

Clabon (Cla) Allen using the Heliostat (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Heliostat (Sun Telescope) completed

The Heliostat (Sun Telescope) is completed. Telescope is used by Clabon Allen in analysing stellar spectra and developing Solar Atlas.

Canberra University College enrolls its first students

Canberra University College, which later amalgamated with Ƶ, enrolled its first students. Canberra University College was established with a loose association with the University of Melbourne.

Reynolds Telescope

The 30" Reynolds Telescope is completed, becoming Stromlo's first reflecting telescope, and the largest operational telescope in the southern hemisphere.

Mount Stromlo director commemorated

W.G. Duffield is struck with influenza and dies on 1 August at Stromlo. He is buried on the ridge, beyond the Oddie telescope. Bill Rimmer is appointed Officer-in-charge.

The Director's residence

Construction of the Director's residence

The Director's residence is completed, and the Duffield family moves in.

House 19, Mt Stromlo (National Archives of Australia)

Staff relocation

Observatory staff relocate to Mt Stromlo as the residential buildings are completed.

Commonwealth Solar Observatory, 1920s (National Archives of Australia)

Main CSO building completed

The main Commonwealth Solar Observatory (CSO) building is completed. The astronomers begin moving equipment from the Observatory's temporary housing within the Hotel Canberra.

Walter and Doris Duffield (Mt Stromlo Archives)

Commonwealth Solar Observatory established

The Federal Government confirms the establishment of Mt Stromlo as the Commonwealth Solar Observatory (CSO). Duffield is appointed as the CSO's first director. The original interests of the CSO were focussed on solar and atmospheric physics.

Oddie Dome, 1920s (National Archives of Australia)

Stromlo's first residents

Meteorological observer J.C Cotterill and his family move into the Oddie Dome in 1920, becoming Stromlo's first permanent residents.

Plans for Kite House at Stromlo, 1914 (National Archives of Australia)

First World War

The First World War hinders the development of the Mount Stromlo Observatory.

Agreement to establish Mt Stromlo as the Commonwealth Observatory

In 1913, following test observations, Government Astronomer Pietro Baracchi praises the conditions of the site, and the federal government provides an 'in principle' agreement to establish Mt Stromlo as the Commonwealth Observatory.

Oddie Dome, 1911 (National Archives of Australia)

The Oddie Dome

In 1911, the first observatory building is constructed to test the suitability of the Mt Stromlo site. The Oddie Dome is the first Federal building to be constructed in the ACT.

The National Capital

Following the resumption of the land by the Commonwealth in 1911/12 - the Acton Campus site was earmarked as the early administrative hub of the newly proclaimed Federal Capital Territory - encompassing offices and residences of the fledgling Commonwealth Public Service, the residence of the Administrator and the Canberra Community Hospital (1914). However the site was always envisioned as an educational precinct. In the original design competition for Canberra (1911) - Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin's winning competition entry designated the site for tertiary learning, even going as far as plotting the locations of individual disciplines.

Federal Survey Camp, 1910 (National Library of Australia)

Mt Stromlo as potentially suitable site

With support from the Commonwealth Government, Mt Stromlo is tentatively chosen as a potentially suitable site for an Observatory.

Walter Geoffrey Duffield

Plan to establish a solar observatory in Australia

Walter Geoffrey Duffield first identifies the opportunity for an Australian solar observatory in 1905. In 1908 he returns from his studies in England and a 'Solar Research' conference in Oxford with the plan to establish a solar observatory in Australia.

Pastoral settlement

Following European settlement in Australia, the area of the Acton Campus was largely transformed by heavy pastoralisation from the 1820s, with two properties - Springbank and Acton, occupying the site. Livestock and cropping markedly changed the open grassland character of the site, and the first modern buildings appeared in the area in the form of homesteads and pastoral outbuildings.

Past Chancellors

Past Vice-Chancellors