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.

ANU celebrated 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.


Director's residence

The Director's Residence is partially restored

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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'.


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.


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.


Commonwealth Time Service departs

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


Duffield Building completed

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Reynolds Telescope

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


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.


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.