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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 9

I Introduction

II The Australian Chemical Industry

III Pharmaceuticals
i Prosperous pioneers
ii War-time pharmaceutical chemistry
iii Commonwealth Serum Laboratories
iv Post-war pharmaceutical manufacture
v Public sector policies

IV Chemists In Other Industries

V The Dawn Of Modern Chemical Industry - High Pressure Synthesis

VI The Growth Of Synthetic Chemicals - Concentration, Rationalisation And International Links

VII Australian Industrial Chemical Research Laboratories

VIII The Plastics Industry

IX The Paint Industry

X Acknowledgements



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Prosperous pioneers

The early entrepreneurs in pharmaceuticals included the brothers Elliott, the Youngmans, Felton and Grimwade, Wellcome, Faulding, Bosisto, Bickford's and, in a small way, some pharmacists like Kruse. Most were essentially importers and wholesalers of drugs; yet some displayed early ambitions to manufacture locally. Holloway's and Cockle's pills, Steedman's powder. Perry Davis' pain-killer, Bosisto's eucalyptus oil, chlorodyne, carbon bisulphide and chloral hydrate were amongst their products; it seems almost as if in the 1870s and 1880s galenicals had been amongst the more developed manufactures in Australia. Yet the core and source of profitability of these businesses was the importation and wholesale trade.

The most important of these companies was founded by F. S. Grimwade, in partnership with Alfred Felton. The history of these personalities, their business and much of their associations with their contemporaries -the Elliotts, E. and H. Youngmans, T. W. Kempthorne and E. Prosser, J. Bosisto and R. Cheetham -has been portrayed in detail in Professor J. Poynter's biographies of Russell Grimwade[52] and Alfred Felton[53] and is therefore merely summarised here. Felton Grimwade's wholesale business soon prospered into a substantial enterprise; nevertheless the Grimwades saw that the drug business was narrowly based. Hence they looked for diversification from their business basis: They started the Melbourne Glass Bottle Works Company (1872) to secure bottle supplies;[54] they formed a partnership with Joseph Bosisto to distil eucalyptus oil (the Eucalyptus Mallee Company, 1882) and exported it; they ventured into chemical manufacture -sulphuric acid, but later amalgamated with Cuming Smith; together with R. Cheetham they produced salt from sea water and they branched out into manufacture of oxygen from potassium chlorate and manganese oxide; later Russell Grimwade's scientific enthusiasm brought him into contact with Linde's liquefaction and fractional distillation of air and the Grimwades took a licence under this process (1909), only a few years after it had been pioneered in Germany and founded the Australian Oxygen Company.

Viewed nationally the historic importance of Felton and Grimwade was in the foundation of major manufacturing enterprises and not in the chemical industry, not even in pharmaceutical manufacture. From their initiatives three major Australian companies grew, after a series of amalgamations and metamorphoses: Australian Consolidated Industries (ACI), Commonwealth Industrial Gases (CIG) with their subsidiary Carba Dry Ice and one pharmaceutical company. Drug Houses of Australia. Elliott Brothers, in due course, became part of Monsanto Australia and thus part of the chemical industry. R. Cheetham independently formed the Solar Star Salt Works, Australia's first solar energy process still in business today.

Alfred Felton contributed to Victoria's history in other ways. He created the Felton bequest (400 000, about $27 million in 1985 dollars) out of the wealth of his enterprise, which formed the core of the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia's finest and richest art collection, indeed a lasting monument. Sir Henry Wellcome, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur from the UK, who spent some time in Australia in 1890 and founded an Australian branch, elected another form of philanthropy as his personal monument. He created the Wellcome foundation[55] in support of charitable purposes and particularly of medical research of relevance to the pharmaceutical industry -another form of perpetuating a philanthropic purpose -and a business at the same time.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - A.C.I.; Australian Oxygen Company; Bickfords, Adelaide; Carba Dry Ice; Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd (C.I.G.); Cuming Smith and Co.; Elliott Bros.; Eucalyptus Mallee Company; Felton Grimwade; Grimwade and Bickford, Perth; Melbourne Glass Bottle Works Company; Monsanto Australia; National Gallery of Victoria; Wellcome Foundation; Youngman, Henry & Edward

People in Bright Sparcs - Bosisto, J.; Cheetham, R.; Faulding, Francis H.; Felton, Alfred; Grimwade, F. S.; Kempthorne, T. W.; Poynter, Prof. John S.; Prosser, E.; Wellcome, Sir Henry

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 652 - 653, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher