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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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War-time pharmaceutical chemistry (continued)

Yet another wartime product was morphine from opium poppy. The European method of incising poppy capsule and extracting the sap was too labour intensive. Felton Grimwade and Duerdin, using old patent literature, developed a method of extracting morphine from capsules and stalks, the CSIRO demonstrated conditions for growing the plant and from several plantations in Australia some pure morphine was produced by the modified process. While the manufacture of pure morphine proved uneconomical after the war, the production of opiate (concentrate) by the 'poppy straw method' survived in Tasmania. Two companies, Glaxo and Extal, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, still operate the process, one of the few vertically integrated pharmaceutical manufactures -from papaver plant to the opiate concentrate -in Australia.

Two other products, hyoscine and hyoscyamine, are worth recording not only because of their wartime use but also because of their historic links. The aborigines already knew of the paralysing action of leaves from the corkwood tree (Duboisia myoporoides);[65] Ferdinand von Mueller, the doyen of Australian botanists mentioned the belladonna-like effect of the Duboisia species[66] and Russell Grimwade included Duboisia amongst his selection of native plants for the emergency pharmacopeia of the MECC (he suggested five of the six plants selected by the Committee).[67] CSIRO's Division of Plant Industry, Melbourne and Sydney University worked on Duboisia Leichhardtii and myoporoides and Felton, Grimwade and Duerdin, in response to a request from MECC, produced hyoscine and later atropine derived from the plant extract in large quantities. Indeed Australia supplied the entire needs of the Allies of atropine and hyoscine and this hyoscine was used to prevent seasickness among troops at the landings in Normandy on D day. Once again, synthetic drugs after the war superseded the use of these natural extracts and manufacture in Australia ceased.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australia. Department of Defence. Medical Equipment Control Committee (M.E.C.C.); Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (C.S.L.); CSIRO Division of Plant Industry; Duerdin and Sainsbury; Extal; Felton Grimwade; Glaxo Pty Ltd; I.C.I. Australia Ltd; Newcastle Chemicals

People in Bright Sparcs - Bonython, W.; Grimwade, Sir W. R.; McCulloch, R. N.; Mellor, D. P.; von Mueller, Baron Ferdinand

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 660 - 661, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher