1900 - 1919
Also in this section
1920 - 1939
1940 - 1959
1960 - 1979
1980 - 1999
2000 - present
1901 - Emil von Behring wins first Nobel Prize in Medicine
German doctor Emil von Behring wins the first Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his work on serum therapies. Von Behring’s pioneering work results in the modern methods of immunization that have largely eradicated diphtheria worldwide. In 1904 von Behring establishes Behringwerke to produce sera and vaccine products.
1915 - Plan to Establish Federal Serum Institute Announced
Experience during World War I makes it clear that Australia cannot afford to rely on overseas supplies of important sera and vaccines. The country was effectively cut off from its traditional sources of vaccines and other bacteriological products for the duration of the war.
The decision to establish a federal serum institute (CSL) is announced on 21 October 1915.
1916 - CSL Established
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) are established to supply Australia with vaccines and other bacteriological products.
Dr William Penfold, a bacteriologist at Britain's Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine, is appointed as CSL's founding Director.
1917 - Temporary Location
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) provides CSL with free accommodation in its building in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, until a permanent home can be found.
Collaboration between the two organisations continues to this day.
1918 - CSL Moved to Permanent Site
CSL transfers operations from its temporary base at WEHI to its permanent site in Parkville, Melbourne.
In 1918 Melbourne and Sydney's ports have been placed under quarantine in an attempt to avoid the introduction into Australia of the "Spanish Influenza" epidemic which is claiming thousands of lives around the world. One of CSL's first actions is to prepare advance doses of a vaccine in case an Australia outbreak of the epidemic occurs.
1919 - Spanish Flu Pandemic in Australia
Sample of the vaccine produced by the Commonwealth
Serum Laboratories to combat the 1919 Influenza Epidemic
CSL's first challenge is the Influenza Epidemic of 1919 - the "Spanish 'Flu". When the epidemic reaches Australia in January 1919, public health authorities respond by closing cinemas, theatres, racecourses and schools. Masks are required of anyone moving through the streets. Schools and kindergartens - even Melbourne's Exhibition Building - are turned into makeshift hospitals.
CSL's staff numbers are temporarily tripled as the organisation produces 3 million doses of a mixed bacterial vaccine in an attempt to combat the disease.