Our history

ANU is 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 Heritage management to learn more about our well preserved heritage and principles.

2016

Professor Brian P. Schmidt becomes Vice-Chancellor

Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS becomes the next Vice-Chancellor on 1 January 2016.

2014

Director's residence

The Director's Residence is partially restored

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

2013

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 ANU has 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.

2011

Nobel Prize in Physics

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

2010

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.

2007

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.

2006

Forming seven ANU Colleges

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

2006

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.

2005

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.

2004

Medical School opens to students

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

2004

The National Institute of the Arts join with the ANU

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

2003

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.

2001

Restructuring the University

In June the ANU Council 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

1999

Start of the National Field Robotics Facility

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

1998

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.

1998

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.

1998

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.

1996

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.

1996

ANU's 50th anniversary

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

1994

ANU astronomers 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 ANU 2.3m Telescope.

1994

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.

1993

Opening the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology

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

1992

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

Attempt to solve the mistery 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'.

1992

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.

1991

Changes for the Research School of Physical Sciences

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

1989

Establishing the ANU Graduate School

The ANU Graduate 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.

1987

Establishment of the ANU Supercomputer Facility

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

1986

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.

1984

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.

1984

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.

1984

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.

1981

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

Uppsala Schmidt telescope moves

Uppsala Schmidt telescope moves to Siding Spring Observatory.

1979

Renaming the School of General Studies

The School of General Studies formally renamed The Faculties.

1976

Opening the Women's Studies Program

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

1976

Purchase of the Spring Valley Farm

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

1975

Noel Dunbar & Joy London signing transfer to ANU

Establishment of the Kioloa Coastal Campus

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

1974

The Humanities Research Centre is established

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

1973

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 ANU and other Australian and overseas institutions undertaking research in northern Australia.

1972

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

1971

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.

1968

Commonwealth Time Service departs

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

1968

Establishment of the Warramunga Seismic & Infrasound Station

A twenty element seismic array was established at the site in 1968 and has been operated by ANU since 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.

1968

Opening the Computer Centre

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

1967

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.

1965

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.

1965

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 ANU Faculty of Science.

1964

First building constructed at Siding Spring Observatory

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

1964

Flooding in Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin is flooded, skirting the southern edge of the ANU campus

1964

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.

1963

Duffield Building completed

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

1963

New libraries are opened

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

1962

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 ANU Vice-Chancellor Leonard Huxley that Siding Spring would become the site for the field station.

1961

Residents occupy Bruce Hall

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

1961

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.

1961

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 ANU academics.

1960

Canberra University College becomes ANU

ANU amalgamates with Canberra University College. CUC becomes the School of General Studies at ANU and undergraduates become part of ANU life for the first time. In 1960 ANU still 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.

1960

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.

1957

Mt. Stromlo Observatory joins the ANU

The Australian National University 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 ANU Department of Astronomy.

1955

Celebrating twenty-five years

Canberra University College celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.

1955

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.

1954

University House opens

In February 1954, University House is officially opened.

1953

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).

1952

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.

1952

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.

1952

The first Chancellor

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

1951

First meeting of the ANU Council

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

1951

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.

1951

Conferring the first degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws

On the 7th of December 1951, the ANU confers 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.

1950

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.

1949

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.

1949

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 ANU purchased the property.

1948

The first Vice-Chancellor

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

1948

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.

1948

The first librarian

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

1947

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.

1946

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.

1946

Passing the Bill by Federal Parliament

On the 1 August 1946, the Bill establishing The Australian National University is passed by Federal Parliament.

1946

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.

1944

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.

1944

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.

1940

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.

1931

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.

1930

Canberra University College enrolls its first students

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

1929

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.

1929

Reynolds Telescope

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

1928

The Director's residence

Construction of the Director's residence

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

1926

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.

1926

House 19, Mt Stromlo (National Archives of Australia)

Staff relocation

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

1924

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.

1920

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.

1914

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.

1913

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.

1911

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.

1911

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.

1910

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.

1905

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.

1820

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.