About David and Valerie Solomon
Professor David Solomon AC FRS FAA FTSE is an Australian, world-renowned polymer chemist. He is best known for his work in developing Living Radical Polymerisation techniques, and was the principal inventor of Australia’s first polymer banknotes.
He is often referred to as the father of polymer research in Australia, having established three internationally acclaimed polymer research groups: in industry (Dulux, 1960), in Australia’s peak scientific research organisation, CSIRO (1970) and at the University of Melbourne (1990).
His passion for applied research, Australian industry innovation based on Australian discoveries and encouraging researcher-industry engagement is reflected in his diverse career spanning leading roles in industry, research, research translation, invention, and academia.
It is this diverse and life-long experience of researcher-industry engagement, problem-solving and growing wealth for the country that is celebrated in the David and Valerie Solomon Award for Research-Industry Collaboration.
Professor Solomon began his career in 1946 as a trainee chemist at the age of 16 at British Australian Lead Manufacturers Pty Ltd (BALM Paints), now Dulux Australia, where he developed a keen and lifelong interest in the chemistry of polymers.
His first patent was lodged while at BALM Paints and this led him to spend one year at the ICI research laboratories in Slough, England.
It was while employed at BALM/Dulux that he made important observations that the current theories on polymers did not match the actual chemical reactions of industrial processes in use at the time.
After several years of employment at BALM/Dulux, and the establishment of his first polymer research group, his strong interest in polymer research saw him move to the Division of Applied Mineralogy at CSIRO in 1963, where he continued with studies on polymers.
In 1970 he transferred to the Division of Applied Chemistry and then in 1974 became the Chief of the new Division of Applied Organic Chemistry. He built up the CSIRO Polymer Research Group, where he led research projects including the discovery of Nitroxide Mediated Polymerization (NMP) and the development of the world’s first polymer banknotes.
In 1990 he accepted an invitation to move to the University of Melbourne as the ICI Australia-Masson Professor and Head of the School of Chemistry. He transferred to the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 1995, where he established his third internationally regarded polymer group; the Polymer Science Group, to which he now acts as an advisor.
In 2015 he was awarded the title Professor Emeritus at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Solomon received an Associate of Sydney Technical College, (equivalent to a Diploma of Chemistry) in 1950. He went on to obtain a BSc(Hons) in 1952, an MSc in 1955, a PhD in 1959 for his thesis entitled Studies on the Chemistry of Carbonyl Compounds and a DSc in 1968 for his thesis Studies on the Chemistry of Coating Compounds, all from the University of NSW.
He received an Honorary Doctorate in Applied Science from the University of Melbourne in 2005, one of only seven awarded in the university’s history.
Professor Solomon has received 23 distinguished awards, highlighting the international impact he has had in the field of polymer science, and has given more than 20 invited lectures.
A selection of awards is listed below:
- CSIRO Medal (1987, 1990): awarded for significant research achievement in Australia.
- The Australian Bicentennial Science Achievement Award (1988): awarded for contribution to a better Australia by way of research.
- Clunies Ross National Science and Technology Award (1994): awarded by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering for the application of Australian technological science and engineering for the benefit of the community.
- Centenary Medal (2001): awarded by the Australian Government for contributions to polymer science and chemical engineering.
- Victoria Prize (2006): awarded to a leading scientist/engineer for advancing knowledge with the potential to be commercialised. Awarded for work on polymer banknotes.
- Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (2011): Australia’s most prestigious and highly regarded award (equivalent to the Nobel Prize) for excellence in science. Awarded jointly with Dr Ezio Rizzardo FTSE for contributions to polymer science.
- Companion of the Order of Australia (2016): awarded for eminent service to science, commercialisation activities and professional scientific institutions.
Professor Solomon’s considerable contributions to science have been recognised by his peers through election to the following Academies:
- Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (FRACI), 1966.
- Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA), 1975.
- Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE), 1976.
- Fellow of the Royal Society, 2004.
- Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE), 2007.
Professor Solomon is co-author of nine books, including a historical account of the development of plastic banknotes (The Plastic Banknote: From Concept to Reality, D. H. Solomon & T. H. Spurling, 2014) and several text books (The Chemistry of Radical Polymerization, 2nd Edition, G. Moad & D.H. Solomon, 2006). He is also co-author of more than 250 journal papers and 45 patents.
Professor Solomon and Mrs Valerie Solomon celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on 28 January 2019. They have three daughters and five grandchildren.
Mrs Solomon’s first business venture was breeding miniature Schnauzers in the family home in Glen Waverley. She then turned her attention developing an Angus cattle stud with the registered name Betbelanne on a challenging 59-hectare hilly property at Arawata near Korumburra in south-east Gippsland.
This was so successful it was transferred to a more manageable property at Officer, now a suburb of Melbourne. Mrs Solomon managed this farm for many years, with Professor Solomon as her trusty weekend farm labourer. She managed this stud until its sale in 2004.
Mrs Solomon hopes that the David and Valerie Solomon Award will encourage a new generation of women science and engineering graduates to establish their own businesses in an area of their passion.