By the late 1950s departments of microbiology had been established in the universities in all states and in the Australian Capital Territory. Up to that time, Australian Microbiologists had come together for the exchange of information at the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) congresses (Section A, Section I and later Section 14), but most of them looked at their parent institutions and overseas for intellectual leadership and to learn recent developments in the science. It is largely due to the enthusiasm and drive of Nancy Atkinson of the University of Adelaide that an Australian Society for Microbiology was established. She recognised that an Australian Society would be best achieved by building on the nucleus of microbiologists already well known to each other in the various States.

In 1958, during a meeting of ANZAAS in Adelaide, Atkinson convened a public meeting which was attended by about 50 microbiologists. Eric French of the CSIRO Division of Animal Health was appointed Chairman. The group resolved to examine further the feasibility of forming an Australian "society for microbiology", and a subcommittee consisting of two representatives from each of the six mainland states was established to consider ways and means. It took them just six days, during the ANZAAS meeting, to decide that such a society should be founded.

A subcommittee consisting of Atkinson, Jack Harris of the CSIRO Division of Soils and Lance Walters of the SA Brewing Co., all of Adelaide, was appointed to draft a constitution, circulate it, and to coordinate the views of the states as to how the Society should function.

Committees were set up in all other states to consider the draft constitution, to establish state branches and discuss the functions of the Society; the convenors were David Howes (Australian Capital Territory), David Dorman (New South Wales), Geoffrey Simmons (Queensland), Rose Mushin (Victoria) and Douglas Annear (Western Australia).

In May 1959 the inaugural meeting of the Australian Society for Microbiology was organised by the Victorian Branch as a residential conference held at the University Women's College, University of Melbourne. Sydney D. Rubbo, head of the Department of Microbiology in the University of Melbourne, was elected chairman. The Constitution and By-laws were adopted and office-bearers elected. The Society was constituted as a federation of more or less autonomous State Branches with a governing Council comprising of President, Immediate Past President, President-elect, Secretary, Treasurer and one delegate from each Branch.

The foundation President was Sir Macfarlane Burnet, the Honorary Secretary Jack Harris and the Honorary Treasurer Nancy Atkinson. Initially Presidents served a one-year term but from 1977 onwards they have been elected for two years. The Secretary and Treasurer are elected by national membership for one year but may be reappointed by National Council up to five times.

Councillors are appointed annually by the State Branches and usually serve for two years, although more recently some have served for up to five years.

(extract from History of Microbiology in Australia, (1990) - article by N. F. Millis and D. O. White)


2016-2018 Professor Roy Robins-Browne
2014-2016 Professor Jon Iredell
2012-2014 Professor Paul Young
2010-2012 Professor John Turnidge
2008-2010 Professor Hatch Stokes
2006-2008 A/Professor Keryn Christiansen
2004-2006 Professor Julian Rood
2002-2004 Professor David Ellis
2000-2002 Professor Gwendolyn Gilbert
1998-2000 Professor Ian Gust AO
1996-1998 Professor John Finlay-Jones
1994-1996 Dr Derk Groot-Obbink
1992-1994 Professor John Mackenzie
1990-1992 Professor Kerry Cox
1988-1990 Professor David White AO
1986-1988 Professor Anthony Wicken
1984-1986 Professor Barrie Marmion
1982-1984 Dr Gordon Rich
1981-1982 Professor Kevin Marshall
1978-1981 Professor Nancy Millis
1976-1978 Dr Eric French
1975-1976 Dr Peter Cooper
1974-1975 Dr Allan Ferris
1973-1975 Professor Ralph Doherty
1972-1973 Professor John Thonard
1971-1972 Dr John Christian
1970-1971 Dr Geoffrey Cooper
1969-1970 Professor Solomon Faine
1968-1969 Professor Neville Stanley
1967-1968 Professor James Vincent
1965-1967 Professor Victor Skerman
1964-1965 Professor Frank Fenner
1962-1964 Dr Nancy Atkinson
1961-1962 Dr Ian Mackerras
1960-1961 Prof Sydney Rubbo
1959-1960 Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet