Keith Leonard Sutherland 1916-1980

This memoir was originally published in Historical Records of Australian Science, vol.5, no.2, 1981.

Keith Sutherland was born in Melbourne on 17 January 1916 and educated at the Melbourne High School. From an early age he dedicated his life to science. He graduated BSc (1938) and MSc (1941) with distinction from the University of Melbourne where he soon exhibited his remarkable intellectual capabilities, not only in science but in other activities as well. For example, as a first year student he decided to take up chess. With his usual abounding energy he studied the game thoroughly over the summer vacation and the following year was the University Chess Champion! In 1948 he was awarded his DSc by the same University and his PhD in 1950 by the University of London.

University of Melbourne

When Principles of Flotation by I. W. Wark appeared in 1938 the small research group on mineral flotation, supported by several mining companies and working in the Chemistry Department, University of Melbourne, was already eight years old. Sutherland had just joined the group and the monograph contains the first published references to his work on flotation.

In the years that followed he made an impressive contribution in this field which culminated, in 1955, in the publication of a revised and enlarged version of Principles of Flotation with Sutherland and Wark as joint authors. In their turn the two versions of this book were accepted worldwide and remain the major statements on the scientific basis of froth flotation. Translations appeared in Russia and Japan.

The year 1939 saw three papers, two with Wark as co-author. Sutherland had served an apprenticeship in the rigorous techniques necessary to produce grease- and contamination-free polished mineral surfaces, and had explored, using the measurement of the equilibrium angle of contact of air bubbles with these surfaces, the adsorption of some of the less known collectors. These same three papers saw the beginning of a new appreciation of the interplay between solution chemistry and flotation. Improved potential for practical flotation separations was recognised, for example, in the interaction of carbonate concentration and the flotation response of sulphide minerals with xanthate, using copper ion as activator and sodium cyanide as depressant. This was followed by a paper exploring the additional complexities of practical flotation systems caused by the presence of cations released from the various sulphide minerals in the pulp.


Early in the war, Sutherland was employed by the University of Melbourne but when the CSIR Division of Industrial Chemistry was formed with Wark as its Chief it was natural that Sutherland received one of the early appointments. As Head of the Physical Chemistry Section he continued the work on flotation. Much of his research in this period showed a growing interest in the kinetics of the process and the dynamics of bubble-mineral attachment.

The success which he and Enid Plante had in tackling a practical wartime problem illustrates this interest and also a flexibility in approach which characterised Sutherland and the group he gathered about him. A wartime shortage of ergot for medicinal purposes called for local production commencing with the separation of black ergot grains from healthy rye grains. The traditional, but hardly acceptable, method used discerning poultry to select the healthy rye and spurn the ergot. Sutherland and Plante devised a novel flotation method based on a limited selectivity enhanced by oiling the rye grains. They used a pneumatic flotation cell to avoid the turbulence of the usual impeller-agitated cell which would have disrupted bubble-grain attachment. The result was a flotation separation of these very coarse grains, which was visually spectacular and quite extraordinarily efficient. Both recovery and 'purity' of the ergot exceeded 95 per cent. Their papers explored for the first time the relationship between particle geometry, contact angle and buoyancy in a practical flotation system.

During the next few years Sutherland and his small group tackled a number of short-term practical problems connected with war needs – one was the chemical decarbonising of aircraft pistons using strong nitric acid – but continued also in the study of flotation systems. He wrote on the mechanical efficiency of flotation machines and reviewed advances in adsorption methods for measuring the surface area of powders and for the determination of the surface energies of solids. Characteristically he noted the importance of surface energies not only as they related to wetting phenomena, but also in crushing and grinding.

There was a growing interest at that time in the flotation of minerals other than sulphides and Sutherland, working with John Rogers, returned to the pioneering work by I. W. Wark and E. E. Wark on the use of paraffin chain salts, both anionic and cationic, as collectors. These reagents, because of their long non-polar paraffin groups, were much more surface active than the xanthate collectors for sulphide minerals. Consequently control of frothing became much more difficult, and also adsorption of the collector at bubble surfaces tended to 'armour' the bubble and hinder or prevent attachment to the mineral particle.

Meanwhile the group tackled with some success the practical flotation recovery of cassiterite, making use of sodium hexadecyl sulphate as collector. Sutherland and Rogers also published a general paper in which they consolidated the experience of both xanthate-type and paraffin chain salts as collectors. In another flotation paper at this time Plante and Sutherland examined the complex effects of the state of oxidation of the sulphides of the mill feed.

Sutherland's own interests in the mid-forties were increasingly concerned with dynamic phenomena in flotation, both in the mechanics of bubble-mineral attachment and in the time-dependent adsorption phenomena at the air-water interface. His 1945 paper Kinetics of Flotation is still widely consulted and quoted; it reveals a flair for mathematical analysis. He examined the hydrodynamics of collision between bubble and particle in a flotation cell, and developed an equation for flotation rate in which the important variables were the sizes of mineral particles and bubbles and the 'induction period', which is defined as the period needed for colliding particle and bubble to remain in contact before stable attachment is achieved.

His interest in the formation of bubbles and the stability of froths led to research on the variation of the surface tension of solutions with time, a topic on which he was subsequently to work with Sir Eric Rideal in London. He had gained his MSc in Melbourne, at a time before continuation to a PhD became possible within Australia, and the 1939-45 war denied him the much desired opportunity to study overseas. As Wark described it 'The war over, he cut the painter, sold up his belongings and accepted a Davy Faraday Fellowship at the celebrated Royal Institution in London'. His was an adventurous disposition.

Sutherland was not one to adopt a technique or a theory uncritically. The oscillating jet method for measuring surface tension had been known for many years and the basic theory had been developed by Bohr in 1908. Bohr's mathematical treatment could be used to relate changing surface tension to variation in the wavelength of oscillation of the jet and to the elapsed time after the surface was formed at the elliptical orifice. Several measurements on solutions had already been published when Sutherland developed his apparatus, which incorporated an elegant optical method for measuring the wavelength of oscillation to better than 0.1 per cent. There was no doubt he was measuring a dynamic surface tension, but his careful work with different jets and different solutions, showed that the variation of surface tension with time was by no means an absolute quantity; it depended on how the surface was generated. Movement of solute into the surface by diffusion was demonstrably only a part of the story; and the rest of it, the effect of liquid movement in the creation of new surface at the orifice and in the oscillation of the jet, was mathematically intractable. The dilemma can be quoted in Sutherland's own words:

Even the simplest boundary conditions required for the solution of mathematical equations for this type of process do not enable the equation to be solved. Alternatively we must devise an experimental method whereby a new surface is generated but during which process no liquid is moved!

He returned to this technique in a paper published in 1954 to show that, even with pure liquids, Bohr's equations give values usually too low by 0.3 to 1.0 per cent, and even greater errors could result from the use of some jets.

Whereas the oscillating jet method was the best available for measuring the change in surface tension with time for solutions of rapidly adsorbed solutes, such as heptanol, it was clearly inapplicable to those in which surface equilibrium was attained more slowly. In a paper published in 1954 Sutherland examined the more appropriate method for these systems, the Wilhelmy plate method. He showed that here too rates of adsorption depended not only on diffusion but also on almost inevitable convectional circulation caused by small differences in temperature between the liquid surface and the bottom of the measuring trough. He suggested a modified design of the measuring apparatus to minimise this effect.

Subsequently he published another paper on the very slow change of surface tension of solutions of sodium hexadecyl sulphate, showing that very low concentrations of cation impurities, such as Ca2+ and Mg2+ were mainly responsible.

Those who knew the shy and somewhat introspective Sutherland who went to England in 1947 saw him come back to Melbourne as Head of the Physical Chemistry section of the Division of Industrial Chemistry with a new-found confidence. Scientific conundrums that he had talked about before blossomed into projects. Many times in conversation with colleagues he had complained at the widespread misrepresentation of the classical work of J. Willard Gibbs on surface activity and foam stability. In a paper with Ewers the record was set straight. Gibbs' explanation of the dependence of foam stability on variability of surface tension was restated and to it was added the concept of surface transport which formulated a mechanism for moving liquid within the film, either to heal a stable film or, with an added foam breaker, to cause it to collapse.

Under Sutherland the work of the Physical Chemistry Section began to diversify. Within his general direction and with his encouragement a novel application was developed by W. E. Ewers and L. F. Evans for the recovery of wool grease from scour liquors. M. E. Winfield began work on the kinetics of heterogeneous catalysis and devised an elegant apparatus for measuring rates of gas uptake into catalyst beds over time intervals from a few hundredths to a few tenths of a second. Sutherland collaborated with him to develop a mathematical treatment of the results which made it possible to discriminate between the various transport and adsorption mechanisms and to measure the intrinsic rate constants for adsorption and desorption. The outstanding work by the late W. W. Mansfield on the control of evaporation in water storages using hexadecanol was another program of the Section in which Sutherland took a close interest.

Flotation research continued, though Sutherland's main direct contribution at this stage was the major revision and expansion of Principles of Flotation. Nonetheless cassiterite flotation was again investigated and notable advances were made in the measurement of collector adsorption and in the understanding of the mechanism of bubble-mineral attachment.

The section was greatly strengthened by a group from the former Chemical Engineering Section. Included in it was D. E. Weiss whose career was greatly influenced by Sutherland and the strength of the laboratory at that period in flotation research and in colloid chemistry. Earlier work in the Chemical Engineering Section by Weiss on foam separation processes had led to enhancing the capacity of the foam column by incorporating activated carbon rendered hydrophobic by adsorption of oleyl alcohol. Although this work was not then within his Section, Sutherland was always approachable: he offered valuable guidance on many occasions. When the work transferred to his Section he gave great encouragement to the development of continuous processes of ion-exchange, work which later led to the Sirotherm desalination process and which had the imprint of his interest in water.

J. A. Barker, whose theoretical work on the structure of liquids was to become world renowned, I. Brown with his work on vapour liquid equilibria and the High Pressure Laboratory in Sydney University under S. D. Hamann, were also transferred from the Chemical Engineering Section.

Physical Chemistry came to be interpreted very widely in the activities of Sutherland's group. When CSIRO was asked by its Minister, the late Lord Casey, to consider the possibility of working on bushfire control, Sutherland called a meeting of his senior colleagues to consider what might be done. This meeting is well remembered by those who took part in it; the topics discussed ranged from the aerodynamics of bushfire movement to the chemistry of flame propagation, fire-proofing agents and radiation shielding. Sutherland established a team around A. R. King and research was quickly underway. The results of this work had far-reaching consequences in techniques of forest management, including control burning and the measurement of fire hazard, in identifying the nature of hazards to personnel and advising safety procedures, and in a more detailed understanding of the physics and chemistry of bushfires. King and Sutherland wrote one paper together, on felling trees with explosives.

It was largely Sutherland's influence that made his Section an exciting group to work with; there was a wide range of interests, a tradition of talking to one another about ideas and progress, and a continual state of friendly controversy. Sutherland was in the thick of it, arguing his view with vigour. He was tenacious but also flexible; the next day he would be back arguing just as strongly but sometimes from the other side. His colleagues admired his ability to change his mind; rarely did he have to, but when he did the matter was close to being resolved.

His own work continued to be directed to dynamic phenomena at interfaces and in the late 1950s, with M.Linton as his co-worker, he worked on four specific problems. The first was a study of the coalescence of liquid drops with one another and with a plane surface of the same liquid. The process was shown to be dependent on the distortion of the surfaces in apparent contact to trap a lens of air between them, so that the delay in coalescence increased with drop size. The second problem was the effect of interfacial properties on mass transfer from immiscible drops to surrounding fluid: rates of extraction from single drops correlated with circulation within the drop which in turn was related to low interfacial tension. A third problem concerned the proposition that the use of hexadecanol monolayers to restrict water evaporation might restrict oxygen access. They showed that oxygen transfer was restricted somewhat, but not sufficiently to affect water quality. The fourth contribution was to the chemical engineering literature on mass and heat transfer from solid spheres into fluid in laminar flow.

Sutherland's group ceased active work on flotation in 1955 and L. F. Evans and R. B. Head transferred their attention to physico-chemical aspects of ice nucleation, associated with the cloud-seeding program of the Division of Radio-physics. Out of this came a collaboration between Head and Sutherland. They showed that, although the number of nuclei is decreased by aggregation, the aggregates are more effective in the sense that, on contact with super-cooled water droplets, they cause ice to nucleate at higher temperatures than will unaggregated nuclei.

Sutherland shared with many Australian scientists an interest in water as a resource, an interest which ran as a major theme through his own work and that of his group. Evaporation control, ice nucleation and Weiss' early work on desalination have been referred to. Among his colleagues Sutherland was talking twenty-five years ago about the calculations he was making on the feasibility of towing icebergs from the Antarctic as a source of fresh water for Australian cities. The same interest found him in 1959 collaborating with officers of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority on the new method for determining calorimetrically the quality of snow.

In 1956 Sutherland was designated as Assistant Chief of the Division of Industrial Chemistry and two years later, when the Division was reconstituted as the Chemical Research Laboratories, he became the first Chief of the Division of Physical Chemistry. He remained in that position until he was appointed Director of Research for the Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd in 1959.

In his last year as an officer of CSIRO he found time to return briefly to flotation. A so-called neutral molecule theory had been proposed in 1952 by A. W. Last and M. A. Cook. They suggested that the active collector in flotation systems was invariably the free acid or free base. Wark, almost twenty years before, and later Sutherland, had explained the behaviour of many flotation systems in terms of the active collector being the corresponding anion or cation, and of these species competing with the ions of such depressants as cyanide. Sutherland demonstrated in his 1959 paper that the theories were essentially indistinguishable.

Sutherland's career in CSIRO began with flotation studies; these soon aroused an overwhelming interest in the physics and chemistry of interfaces. CSIRO valued him: it induced him to return from abroad and it advanced him rapidly. Later, in November 1965, he was persuaded to become a part-time member of the Executive. However he was to change direction half way through his professional life, primarily because he was as much interested in the applications of science as in adding to the broad base of science. He was equally at home in both spheres. So it is that his publications are not as numerous as those of most Fellows, but there is a permanent quality about them that is rare. In later life Keith described himself as a general practitioner but on one occasion his colleague Lloyd Rees corrected him, saying that he was a versatile specialist.

CSR Limited

Keith Sutherland held the position of Director of Research in CSR Limited from his appointment in November 1959, until his retirement on his 62nd birthday in 1978. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited (now CSR Limited) in the 1950s was a major sugar miller and refiner with substantial interests in building materials and chemicals. It had a long history of scientific investigation into its raw materials and products. Sutherland had frequently been consulted by CSR prior to 1959 when he was invited to join the Company as Director of Research in Sydney. At that time CSR had a central research department with about twenty-five graduates and a support staff of thirty.

It was characteristic of the man that, in joining a major manufacturing industry with a long history of competence in relatively simple technologies, he saw an opportunity to develop a research group that would be a world leader in scientific achievement.

His vision began to take substance with the construction, in 1962, at Roseville, Sydney, of one of the very few industrial research laboratories in Australia. This provided modern accommodation and advanced instrumentation for an eventual staff of more than 150, including about fifty graduates. A wide range of disciplines was represented: chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics and analysis.

His appointment quickly brought about a sharp change in the type of research project being undertaken by the laboratory. Up to that time most of the projects had been initiated because a particular factory or unit of the Company encountered a problem that had to be solved. The projects were characterised by being strictly concerned with current Company activities, though many of them were long-term, requiring years of research and investigational work.

With Sutherland as Director new projects were generated. Many of these were aimed at gaining a better appreciation of the fundamental scientific basis of the processes and products of concern to CSR. Others were speculative long-term ventures aimed at generating new areas of activity for the Company.

In their location at Roseville the laboratories were deliberately separated from production operations. While intended to be a central research laboratory, to provide a reservoir of diverse scientific expertise for the Company and to keep it abreast of scientific advances, at first the main emphasis was in seeking new scientific initiatives which, it was hoped, would lead to profitable industrial application.

It is not surprising that some major early developments built on the extensive agricultural research that CSR had carried out both in Australia and in Fiji from the beginning of the century. A sugarcane breeding station had been established in Rarawai, Fiji, in 1904 and research had also led to control methods for diseases of sugarcane.

Under the leadership of Sutherland, the David North Plant Research Centre was established in Brisbane in 1960. The Centre housed the only phytotron in the world devoted solely to sugarcane and its establishment recognised the vital importance to the economics of milling of a stable supply of high quality cane. Research effort was slanted heavily toward minimising the fluctuations in supply.

Research in the phytotron on plant-environment interactions included factorial experiments on the combined effects of day and night temperature, day length, high and low light intensities, and of soil and water regimes on the development of the plants. It was demonstrated that any new breakthrough in production levels would be attained only by meticulous attention to plant-soil-water relationships.

A program designed to exploit the potential of hybrid canes was initiated with the assistance of geneticists from CSIRO. The program was at a level of sophistication not previously attempted in sugarcane breeding and included studies of the biochemistry and physiology of sugar storage and photosynthesis, both in individual cells and in the whole plant. Studies in photosynthesis at the level of the cell, leaf, plant and crop levels were part of a collaborative program with the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association. The work revealed a previously unrecognised and quite different pathway of carbon dioxide fixation occurring in sugarcane and in several other tropical grasses – a major contribution to biochemistry.

The David North Plant Research Centre, having largely fulfilled its functions of delineating the fundamental factors affecting the yield of sugarcane, was ultimately transferred to CSIRO in 1977.

At the time of Sutherland's appointment CSR had not embarked on its current major expansion in minerals, mining and energy. Thus the knowledge that Sutherland could have uniquely contributed to mineral processing was not used to full advantage. Moreover, it was unfortunate (though a concomitant of adventurous research) that some of the projects he started - such as glow discharge research, organo-metallic chemistry, activated brown coal char, synthetic anti-dental caries agents - were not commercial successes.

On the other hand Sutherland was quick to recognise and respond to the potential value to the Company of investment in renewable resources, contrasting such investment with mining-related activities in which he had spent so much of his earlier working life. He supported studies on the use of agricultural crops and forests for the production of energy and chemicals as well as of pulp and paper. His early encouragement has indirectly borne fruit in the current study by CSR into the establishment of a mechanical pulp mill in New Zealand.

Meanwhile the very diversity of the group at Roseville was proving valuable to the Company in several ways. Thus it was possible to assemble quickly a group with resources to investigate the causes of the disastrous Townsville Terminal sugar fire. Another example is provided by the lasting and beneficial changes made in sugar processing by the introduction of enzymes.

Towards the end of the 1960s there were changes in the directions in which the Company was developing. With an increasing emphasis on mineral and energy resources, company and divisional management was shifting from men trained primarily in science, to men whose experience lay in economics, commerce and practical mining. Development through resource exploitation displaced the concept of growth through scientific discovery.

In this situation the blue-sky research position became increasingly difficult to sustain, and several attempts were made to build stronger evaluation criteria into the selection of projects for the research laboratories. On 13 August 1969, the laboratories were incorporated in a new company, CSR Research Proprietary Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of CSR Limited. Its purpose was 'to carry out fundamental and applied research, development and technical services related to CSR products and processes, existing or contemplated'. Under the new organisation the research laboratories at Roseville became an approved research organisation within the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act and carried out contract research for the CSR group as well as for outside companies.

That these were boom years in Australia was reflected by an upsurge of activity in the laboratories. Projects ranged across CSR's interests in sugar, alcohol, chemicals, building and construction materials, mining and quarrying and were aimed also at extension into new areas of business. In the minerals area there were major projects on iron-ore, bauxite, copper, oil shale and vanadium extraction.

The peak year for the Roseville laboratories was 1971 with a total staff of more than 150. By 1972, however, the beginning of the recession in mining began to make itself felt and over the next few years the economic climate became more adverse. Both in Australia and overseas there was a more rigorous identification of industrial research with both short- and long-term needs of companies.

These trends, together with the restructuring of CSR into three major divisions, produced changes in the role and the operation of the research laboratories. In the mid-1970s they were recognised on the basis of business areas, projects and support functions. The prime objective of its corporate research remained to stimulate innovation in CSR, in order to help maintain and improve its position in existing businesses and to help provide for the growth of the company into areas of new business. Sutherland had a small development group, located at CSR's Head Office, reporting directly to him. He was heavily involved with the company's submissions to the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on The Directions, Priorities, Efficacy and Application of Australian Industrial Research and Development. Throughout his term as CSR's Director of Research, Sutherland always welcomed the challenge of a new problem, was quick to use his remarkable capacity to reduce each problem to its essentials, and to tackle it with insight, sound logic, and considerable originality. He maintained good lines of communication with all his staff and made regular informal visits to colleagues in their laboratories. Discussions with them covered not only their immediate activities but he shared with them his vision of future growth opportunities for the Company.

CSR's research activity benefited greatly from Sutherland's eminence in the scientific community. For his appointment he immediately set about bringing CSR and its research personnel more closely into that community and their standing among their peers rose dramatically. Their work became better known and they interacted more with others in the same and related fields of investigation. Research personnel were encouraged to engage in learned society activities, to present research papers at conferences, to publish in the literature and to travel. The research environment and the attitudes that Sutherland established have persisted. The CSR Research Laboratories remain an establishment where excellence of scientific and technological contribution, as judged by peers, is the guiding principle.

The history of CSR Limited, from its beginning in 1855 to its present position as a large diversified but Australian-owned company, is a part of the thread in the fabric of Australia's development over its first two hundred years. Likewise the history of research in CSR, which goes back almost a century, is part of the growth of Australian science and technology.

The history of Australia throughout the 20th century is studded with the exploits of men of vision and future historians will see the two latest decades as remarkable for the new industrial initiatives that have come from such men. In the scientific field, through his role in CSR, Sutherland was one of those modern visionaries contributing to the thread of science and technology that has itself played an important part in the company's growth and development.

Other Activities

During his period in industry Sutherland assiduously maintained his contacts with institutional research and with academics. He drew obvious intellectual satisfaction from his contacts with a wide range of scientists and was held by them in high regard.

Australian Industrial Research Group: Sutherland was the founder of the Australian Industrial Research Group (AIRG) and epitomised the aims of AIRG in always 'seeking to improve the quality of research management in Australia and to stimulate and develop an understanding of research as a force in economic, industrial and social activities'.

In talking with other industrial research managers he recognised the great need for improved personal contacts and greater discussion of mutual problems. He organised the first meetings, late in 1964 and early in 1965, at which the Australian Industrial Research Group was formed. He served as the first Chairman and then President in the formative years from 1965-1967 inclusive.

Throughout the years, he actively supported and contributed to most of the activities of AIRG, serving on many sub-committees and working parties and always lending his wide counsel to other members. Particular mention should be made of his leading role in relation to the formation of Government policies for the Industrial Research and Development Grants and Incentives Act and to his endeavours to improve interactions between industry and universities and colleges of advanced education.

On his retirement in 1977 Sutherland was elected an honorary life member of it in recognition of his outstanding contributions and to the increased public standing and influence which has come to it.

Australian Museum: Although a dedicated physical scientist he built up a shell collection of world importance which led to his becoming first Honorary Curator in the malacology department and later a Trustee of the Australian Museum in 1966 and President of the Board of Trustees from 1972 to 1974. In honour of his contribution the Trustees of the Australian Museum established in January 1980 a 'Keith Sutherland Award'. In a related area, as a member of the Board of the Lizard Island Research Station, he helped to facilitate and promote the important contributions that scientists working at that Station have made to the ecological studies of the Barrier Reef.

Australian Academy of Technological Sciences: Within the Academy of Science Sutherland became known (along with his lifelong friend and mentor Ian Wark) as a voluble and persistent advocate for a change in Council's attitude towards applied science and applied scientists. It is fair to say that at the time of his death he was deeply disappointed by the policy of the Academy on this matter. However, being a realist, he recognised and accepted defeat and joined, reluctantly but actively, the group setting up the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences. He was one of the twenty-seven scientists and technologists who accepted the invitation of the convening committee of six to a meeting in Melbourne on 3 July 1974 to discuss the formation of an academy of technological sciences. At that meeting he was appointed to what became the foundation council of the academy when it was formally established in November 1975. He served until October 1977 as first convener of the Membership Committee and was most active in establishing mechanisms and by-laws for the election of Fellows. His suggestion that the academy prepare an annual review of the progress of technology in Australia led directly to the reports on Innovation in Australian Technology now in their fifth year.

His greatest contribution to the Academy of Technological Sciences was, however, the Report of an Enquiry into the Effect of Australian Design Rule 27A for Control of Vehicle Emissions and Future Control Measures (1979). In 1978 the Academy was asked by the Minister of Transport, the Honorable P. J. Nixon, to report on vehicle emissions and it set up a committee consisting of K. L. Sutherland, convener, C. S. Christian and R. I. Tanner. The degree of co-operation which the committee received from the industry was due in a large part to Sutherland's powers of persuasion and its objectivity due to his resisting many of the pressures to which the committee was subjected. Both his fellow committee members found the completion of their task pressing hard against travel commitments and it in no way detracts from their contributions to say that the final report was largely Sutherland's work. Written under the burden of rapidly deteriorating health it is a model of clarity and thoroughness and a memorial to an able, meticulous and conscientious man.

After Sutherland's death, the Australian Industrial Research Group suggested to the Academy of Technological Sciences that the academy would be an appropriate body to commemorate him by the establishment of a Sutherland Medal. After consulting with the Academy of Science and ANZAAS this initiative was adopted and the Academy of Technological Sciences has established an award to commemorate Sutherland by recognising persons of outstanding achievement in the application of science for technological purposes.

NSW Science and Technology Council: Appointed as Chairman of the New South Wales Science and Technology Council on its formation in 1975, he served both major political parties. Chosen because of his acknowledged leadership in professional circles, he advised on co-ordination of the results of major scientific studies by various departments, and the Premiers of the day have valued his advice over wide-ranging fields of science and technology.

Other Government Activities: In the federal sphere Sutherland was appointed in 1978 one of five part-time members of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board. His intimate knowledge of R&D in Australian industry and his broad knowledge of the Australian chemical, engineering and manufacturing industries ably fitted him for this assignment. Here again he was ever ready to make his scientific knowledge available over a broader field.

In 1970 he led, at the request of the Australian Government and with the blessing of CSR, an official delegation to the UNESCO Meeting on Multidisciplinary Research in South East Asia held in the Philippines. This was followed in rapid succession by organisation of a UNESCO Seminar on 'Assessment of Research Projects' in Djakarta and involvement in a UNESCO project 'Integrated Research Planning in Indonesia'. All these in the latter four months of 1970!

In all Sutherland carried out three missions in Indonesia concerned with policies in research, science and technology. In 1977 he was invited by UNESCO to advise the Secretary-General of the National Economic and Social Development Board of Thailand. Sutherland's advice was sought on overall selection of resource allocation into research for agriculture, industry and social fields. He thrived on this type of exercise and did it extremely well.


Sutherland was the recipient of many scientific honours and awards:

  • Rennie Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (1943)
  • Smythe Prize, University of Melbourne (1948)
  • Smith Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (1957)
  • Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (1959)
  • Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences (1975)
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1977).

He was most generous in devoting his time to assisting many professional bodies. The more important of those not already noted are:

  • The Society of Chemical Industry of Victoria, Sydney University Chemical Society, and University of NSW Chemical Society, as President.
  • Council of the University of New England, Part-time member.
  • Part-time member of the Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), 1965-71.
  • CSIRO NSW State Committee, Chairman and CSIRO Advisory Council, member.
  • Scientific and Technological Information Services Enquiry Committee (STISEC) which reported to the Prime Minister's Department on a policy for future information services, member.
  • Australian Mineral Development Laboratory (AMDEL), Council Member and, for a short time during a period of acute difficulty, Acting Director.
  • Science and Industry Forum of the Australian Academy of Science, member.
  • National Association of Testing Authorities, Director.
  • ANZAAS, 1978 President


Sutherland married twice. There were four children from the first marriage (dissolved). Later he married Mary Lindley who shared many of his interests and who devotedly and graciously tended him during his last long, painful and frustrating illness. He died on 16 January 1980.

He had been ever ready to help within Australia and abroad. His mind worked swiftly and he had the facility to be able to make a definitive contribution with a rapidity that was at times astonishing. His objective comments in private or at a scientific gathering were precisely and elegantly presented.

Two hundred people attended the Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Achievements of Keith Leonard Sutherland at the St Stephens Uniting Church, Sydney, on 4 February 1980. They included friends from the two Academies and from academia, a wide range of business associates, and members of his family. Sir Ian Wark concluded with words which are echoed by his many friends and associates:

Never have I had a more agreeable colleague. I had a great affection for him and held him in the highest esteem. Today we mourn our great loss but it is of Keith's accomplishments that we must think and give thanks to God for his time with us.


We are grateful to many people for assistance in preparing this Memoir and in particular to Dr D. J. O'Connor, Dr C. S. Barnes, Mr R. Thompson, Mr J. McPherson of CSR Limited and Mr F. B. McAlister, Dr K. T. H. Farrer and Sir Ian Wark for their valuable contributions.

W. E. Ewers worked with K. L. Sutherland in CSIRO for many years and retired recently as officer-in-charge frorn the Divisions of Mineralogy W.A.

D. E. Weiss also had a long association with K. L. Sutherland in CSIRO where he is now Director of the Planning and Evaluation Advisory Unit. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1971.