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Biographical entry Slatyer, Ralph Owen (1929 - 2012)


16 April 1929
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
26 July 2012
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Biologist and Chief Scientist


Ralph Slatyer was Australia's first Chief Scientist and one of Australia's most distinguished scientists. He was internationally recognised for his research on water relations of plants, ecological succession and disturbed ecosystems in alpine and arid regions, and for his commitment to ecologically sustainable utilization of the natural environment. In his leadership roles at the CSIRO Division of Land Research and as inaugural Professor of Biology at the Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Slatyer was equally committed to co-operation and teamwork between individuals and organisations. This was also evident in his roles as Chairman or member of policy advisory bodies over many years within Australia and internationally, including as Australian Ambassador to UNESCO. Among his achievements were the emergence of the Australian Research Council and the establishment of the Co-operative Research Centres Program intended to facilitate collaboration between researchers and business. In 2017 the A.N.U. Research School of Biology awarded the inaugural Ralph Slatyer Medal for outstanding biological research. The Co-operative Research Centre Association established the annual Ralph Slatyer Address.



Education - BSc (Agric), University of Western Australia
1951 - 1966
Career position - Research Scientist-Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Division of Land Research
Education - MSc (Agric), University of Western Australia
Education - DSc (Agric), University of Western Australia
Award - Edgeworth David Medal, Royal Society of New South Wales
1963 - 1964
Career position - Visiting Professor, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.
1966 - 1967
Career position - Associate Chief, CSIRO Division of Land Research
1967 - 1992
Career position - Foundation Professor of Biology, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University
1967 - 2012
Award - Fellow, Australian Academy of Science
Award - Australian Medal of Agricultural Science
1969 - 1970
Career position - President, Ecological Society of Australia
1969 - 1972
Career position - Member, Australian Research Grants Committee (ARGC)
1973 - 1974
Career position - Ford Foundation Fellow and Visiting Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S.A.
1973 - 1976
Career position - Member, National Planning Commission
1975 - 2012
Award - Fellow, Royal Society, London
Award - Foreign Associate, US National Academy of Sciences
1976 - 1978
Career position - Member, Australian National Commission to UNESCO
Award - Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
1977 - 1981
Career position - Chairman, UNESCO Inter-governmental Programme on “Man and the Biosphere”
1978 - 1981
Career position - Australian Ambassador to UNESCO, Paris
1981 - 1983
Career position - Chairman, UNESCO World Heritage Committee
1981 - 1984
Career position - Member, Board of Management and Policy Advisory Council, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
1981 - 1984
Career position - Chairman, Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)
Award - Foreign Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Award - Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for service to science and technology and its application to industry development
1982 - 1985
Career position - President, Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE)
1982 - 1987
Career position - Chairman (part-time), Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC)
Award - Elected Honorary Member, British Ecological Society
Career position - President, Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS)
1984 - 1989
Career position - Director, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University
1989 - 1992
Career position - Chief Scientist, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
1989 - 1992
Career position - Chairman, Prime Minister’s Science Council
1989 - 1992
Career position - Chairman, Cooperative Research Centre Program, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
1989 - 1992
Career position - Chairman, Co-ordination Committee on Science and Technology
1989 - 1993
Career position - Deputy Chairman, National Greenhouse Advisory Committee, Commonwealth Department of the Arts, Sport, Environment and Territories
Award - ANZAAS Medal
Award - Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to science
1992 - 1994
Career position - Chairman, Australian Foundation for Science
1992 - 1999
Career position - Director, Australian Minerals and Energy Environment Foundation
1992 - 2002
Career position - Chairman, CRC for Tropical Forest Ecology and Management
1992 - 2012
Award - Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
1993 -
Career position - Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University
Life event - Retired
Award - Gold Medal, Ecological Society of Australia
1995 - 2000
Career position - Director, Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research
1995 - 2003
Career position - Member, Australian National Commission to UNESCO
Award - Foreign Member, Korea Academy of Science and Technology
Award - Honorary Doctorate of Applied Science, Charles Sturt University
Award - Lifetime Award for Science and Technology, Clunies Ross Foundation
Award - Centenary Medal for a lifetime of service to environmental issues

Related Awards

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Slatyer, Ralph Owen, Ecological Society of Australia: the first 25 years (Canberra: Ecosystems Dynamics Group, Australian National University, 1999), 28 pp. Details

Edited Books

  • Moyal, Ann ed., Portraits in Science (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1994), 209 pp. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • Farquhar, Graham, 'Ralph Owen Slayter, AC, scientist, 16-4-1929 - 26-7-2012: visionary took science to highest government level', The Age (2012), 35. Details


Resource Sections

McCarthy, G.J. and Helen Cohn