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            In 1881 Louis Pasteur demonstrated to an incredulous world the efficacy of his vaccine for the prevention of the fatal disease anthrax in sheep and cattle. A decade later Pasteur's nephew and assistant, Adrien Loir, was manufacturing the vaccine in Sydney. But although Loir's operations were begun at the behest of local pastoralists, the diffusion of the Pasteur vaccine was not very successful in Australia. Within a few years it was virtually displaced from the market by the modified vaccine produced by two Australian men, John Alexander Gunn and John McGarvie Smith. The process of transfer and diffusion involved in that displacement is the concern of this paper. In particular, it highlights the importance of local adaptation for the successful diffusion of anthrax vaccination in Australia.


            Author and article information

            Critical Studies in Innovation
            Pluto Journals
            June 1989
            : 7
            : 1
            : 32-48
            8629039 Prometheus, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1989: pp. 32–48
            Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Page count
            Figures: 0, Tables: 0, References: 68, Pages: 17
            Original Articles

            Computer science,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Law,History,Economics
            technological adaptation,technological diffusion,anthrax vaccination,Australian pastoral industry,Pasteur,technology transfer


            1. Quoted in Charles Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography., Vol X, New York, 1974, p. 395.

            2. By Robert Koch in 1876 and Louis Pasteur in 1877.

            3. H. R. Seddon, Diseases of Domestic Animals in Australia., Part 5, Vol. 1, Commonwealth Department of Health, Canberra, 1955, pp. 8–20.

            4. The Devlin family usually ran a total of about 220,000 sheep, 5,000 cattle and 600 horses. During 1885, 42,000 sheep, 500 cattle and 60 horses died. In 1886 they lost 25,000 sheep, 150 cattle and 20 horses. Leslie W. Devlin, ‘The Advent of Vaccination of Stock against Anthrax in Australia’, Australian Veterinary Journal., August 1943, pp. 102–111.

            5. Anthrax’, Appendix C in Annual Report., Stock and Brands Branch of the Department of Mines, 1885, pp. 15–16.

            6. ‘Report of the Australasian Stock Conference, 1886’, Journal of the Legislative Council of NSW., 1887, (Session 2), 42, Part 2, p. 227.

            7. Devlin, op. cit., pp. 104–5.

            8. Annual Report of the Stock and Brands Branch of the Department of Mines for 1886’, Journal of the Legislative Council of NSW., 1887–88, 43, Part 2, p. 1047; NSW Parliamentary Debates., Legislative Assembly, May 31, 1887.

            9. NSW Parliamentary Debates., Legislative Assembly, October 6, 1887, p. 366.

            10. Letter, Louis Pasteur to the Editor, Le Temps., 29 November, 1887, printed in ‘The Rabbit Pest’, Journal of the Legislative Council of NSW., Session 1887–88, 43, Part 4, p. 693.

            11. Letter, Louis Pasteur to Mrs. Priestley, 30 December, 1887, National Library of Australia.

            12. Adrien Loir, Pasteur's nephew, was studying medicine and had been an assistant in Pasteur's laboratory for 8 years. Dr. Germont had worked with Pasteur in his laboratory for one year. They were accompanied by a young Englishman, Dr Frank Hinds, who had only been with Pasteur for 10 days but had agreed to act as interpreter for the Frenchmen.

            13. Letter, Under-Secretary of Department of Mines to Monsieur Loir, Sydney, April 24, 1888, Loir Cutting Book, Vol. 1, Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science, MS 100/1; Cablegram, Agent-General, London to Sir Henry Parkes, May 23, Colonial Secretary's Correspondence, NSW State Archives. 4/3978.

            14. Their report to the Minister for Mines was published in the press. See, e.g., S.M.H. May 11, 1888, p.

            15. The trial was overseen by the Anthrax Board, a body set up for the purpose, by the NSW Government. See Report on Experiments demonstrating the efficacy of Pasteur's. Vaccine of Paris as a preventive for Anthrax (Cumberland Disease) in Sheep and Cattle, NSW Anthrax Board, 1889.

            16. A. Loir, A I'ombre de Pasteur. (Souvenirs personnels.), Paris, 1938, p. 115.

            17. ‘Progress Report of the Rabbit Commission’, Journal of the Legislative Council of NSW., 1890, 47, Part 4, p. 775.

            18. Some of these representations were direct from pastoralists, some were through Devlin as a representative and some were channeled through the NSW Government, spurred on by further outbreaks of anthrax.

            19. The Echo., June 9, 1890, p. 3.

            20. Early in July a private trial was carried out on Loir's first batch of vaccine. L. Devlin, op. cit., p. 108; unidentified newspaper cutting, Loir Cuttings, Volume III.

            21. ‘Report of the Australasian Stock Conference, 1886’, Journal of the Legislative Council of NSW., 1887, (Session 2), 42, Part 2, p. 227; L. Devlin, op. cit., p. 104.

            22. Leslie Devlin suggested that the levels of vaccination with the Pasteur vaccine were significantly greater than indicated here. See L. Devlin, op. cit., p. 109. However, the figures used to produce this graph come from the Annual Reports of the Stock and Brands Branch, whose figures in turn came from the vaccine suppliers, i.e., from Arthur Devlin as the Pasteur vaccinator, and from McGarvie Smith and Gunn. It is unrealistic to suppose that they would underestimate their own business. Likewise, Alexander Bruce, the Head of the Stock Department, was an advocate of vaccination and had a close and very supportive relationship with Devlin and Loir and would not have been likely to under-report their business. As the Devlin vaccination returns had long since been destroyed by whiteants when Leslie Devlin wrote his article in 1943, it seems his memory was rather inaccurate.

            23. Much of this opposition originated with the Pasteur rabbit mission which provoked fears of infectious organisms being cast into the environment and was associated with a general fear of dangerous “microbes”. However, some scientists, including Oscar Katz, the Bacteriological Expert to the Rabbit Commission, warned of specific dangers associated with anthrax vaccination.

            24. By 1897 the Pasteur business operating as the Pasteur Institute of Australia had so run down that Arthur Devlin retired from the work, taking up a position as Stock Inspector. At the beginning of 1898 the Pasteur representatives sold their interests in Sydney to a Mr. E Zimmermann who operated under the name of The Pasteur Anthrax Vaccine Laboratory. By 1903 the Pasteur Anthrax Vaccine Laboratory was no longer listed in the Sands Directory, and seems not to have been operating. This suggests that business did not pick up, thus supporting the conventional wisdom of the time that the Pasteur product was virtually eliminiated from the market.

            25. For the 1890 season the overall mortality rate associated with the vaccination was around 5 per cent, considerably more than the figures of less than 1 per cent reported for France and other European countries. See Appendix G, Annual Report for 1890., Stock and Brands Branch of the Department of Mines, 1891; A. Loir, Pasteur's Vaccine of Anthrax in Australia., Sydney, 1890, p. 6.

            26. E.g., in 1894 2,000 sheep died out of a lot of 14,000 vaccinated; in 1895, 6,000 out of a lot of 36,000 died. Annual Report., the specified years, Stock and Brands Branch of the Department of Mines. In March 1893 the Stock Department requested the Government Veterinarian to investigate outbreaks in Mudgee and Wagga Wagga in inoculated. districts, suggesting some failure in vaccination. Minutes., NSW Board of Health, March 8, 1893, NSW State Archives, 5/4936–4942.

            27. In the 1890 season Gunn found his stock required four inoculations before they were successfully immunised. The first two inoculations produced no result, while the third protected only about 60 per cent. Unidentified newspaper cutting, Loir Cuttings, Vol. III.

            28. R. Webster, Bygoo and Beyond., Sydney, 1956, Chapter 11.

            29. The Australasian., June 2, 1894.

            30. Annual Report for 1894., Stock and Brands Branch, 1895.

            31. Letter from Gunn to Town and Country Journal., written April 15, 1895, unlabelled cutting in Gunn Papers, Archives of Business and Labour, Canberra, 55/1

            32. The Australasian., June 2, 1894.

            33. The Australasian Pastoralists’ Review., July 15, 1895.

            34. Bygoo and Beyond, op. cit.

            35. Calculated from figures provided by Gunn, unidentified newspaper cutting, Loir Cuttings, Vol III; Letter from Gunn as ‘Manager’ to the Editor, The Australasian., December 28, 1891.

            36. Statement of accounts for South Yalgogrin for 1890, Goldsbrough Mort Papers, Archives of Business and Labour, 2/563/2.

            37. Bygoo and Beyond, op. cit.

            38. Vaccination Returns of McGarvie Smith and Gunn, McGarvie Smith Institute Papers, Mitchell Library, MSS 2411/14–19.

            39. For summary of models see, e.g., Paul Stoneman, The Economic Analysis of Technological Change., Oxford University Press, 1983.

            40. E.g., Z. Griliches, ‘Hybrid corn: An exploration in the economics of technological change’, Econometrica., 25, October 1957, pp. 501–22; J. Coleman, E. Katz and H. Menzel, ‘The diffusion of an innovation among physicians’, Sociometry., December, 1957; A. Lotka, Elements of Physical Biology., Dover, 1925; S. Kuznets, Secular Movements in Production and Prices., Houghton Mifflin, 1930; A. Friedman, ‘Choosing among S-shaped curves for diffusion processes’, CIEBR Working Paper no. 45, University of Warwick, Coventry, 1974.

            41. These figures from the Annual Reports of the Stock and Brands Branch are the only available comparison of the two vaccines.

            42. Figures on a seasonal basis relate more directly to the decision-making for a particular vaccinating season, from say September to April, than do the yearly figures which aggregate returns from part of two different seasons.

            43. The analogy being that technology, like disease, spreads by contact between individuals. See, e.g., E. Mansfield, Industrial Research and Technological Innovation., W.W. Norton, New York, 1968. For a critique of such models see R. Coombs, P. Saviotti and V. Walsh, Economics and Technological Change., Macmillan, 1987, Chapter 5.

            44. S.M.H., May 4, 1888, p. 4.

            45. Letter, Inspector at Narrandera Stock Office to Loir, June 14, 1888, Loir MS 100/1, Basser Library.

            46. W. M. Hamlet, ‘The History of the Anthrax Bacillus’, in Report of the Anthrax Board, op. cit., p. 23.

            47. By Stanley Devlin and W.M. Hamlet, Government Analyst. Printed in Report of the Anthrax Board, op. cit.

            48. E. C. Pope, letter to unidentified newspaper, October 22, 1918, in cuttings book of J.A. Gunn's sister, supplied to the author by descendants of JA. Gunn.

            49. L. Devlin, op. cit., p. 109.

            50. Letter, R. Freweu to J.A. Gunn, February 29, 1896, Agricultural Special File 109, NSW State Archives, 12/3522.

            51. On adoption in clusters see, e.g., Torsten Hagerstrand ‘Quantitative techniques for analysis of the spread of information and technology’, in C.A. Anderson and M.Y. Bowman (eds), Education and Economic Development., Chicago, 1965, pp. 244–80.

            52. Of the half million sheep vaccinated by Gunn in 1894, “there were failures, more or less, in the protection given to less than 40,000, chiefly in districts remote from the laboratory, and where the time conveying the vaccine to the work was very great”. Sydney Stock and Station Journal., April 26, 1895. Also Gunn's vaccinator had expressed doubts to Mr McLeish about the likely success of the vaccinations on his property in Victoria because of the distance the vaccine had to travel. Letter, D. McLeish to Gunn, June 1, 1894, Agricultural Special File 109, NSW State Archives 12/3522.

            53. The Australasian Pastoralists’ Review., July 15, 1895.

            54. For example, items regularly appeared in the Australasian Pastoralists’ Review. and The Australasian. reporting the success of the Gunn vaccine and then the McGarvie Smith and Gunn vaccine. McGarvie Smith and Gunn also advertised regularly in pastoral publications and produced leaflets for distribution giving the current scale of prices.

            55. See Hagerstrand, op. cit., on this phenomenon.

            56. H. R. Seddon, op. cit., p. 16.

            57. ibid., map opposite p. 16.

            58. ibid.

            59. L. Devlin, op. cit., p. 109.

            60. E.g., W. Alison, Letter to the Editor, The Australasian Pastoralists’ Review., August 15, 1894.

            61. See Seddon, op.cit., on decline of incidence. Also see M. Henry, ‘The incidence of anthrax in stock in Australia’, Journal of Royal Society of NSW., Vol. LVI, 1922, pp. 44–61. Anthrax vaccine as a product had inherent limitations for market expansion. The more successful it was the more it eliminated the motivation for its use. Consequently, after reaching an equilibrium level of use which lasted for only a few years, market demand began to slip away, not because a better product had come along, but because the perceived threat of infection had been so reduced.

            62. This modification of practice is characteristically associated with learning gained through practical experience with a new technology. See e.g., Stoneman, op. cit., Chapter 6.

            63. A. Loir, Pasteur's Vaccine of Anthrax in Australia as a Preventive Against Cumberland Disease in Sheep, Cattle and Horses., Sydney, 1890, p. 10.

            64. Seddon, op. cit., p. 34.

            65. The total figures for NSW are derived from the NSW Statistical Register, 1901 and 1905. The figures for vaccinating properties are calculated from the vaccination returns of McGarvie Smith and Gunn and data in the NSW Statistical Register.

            66. Gunn writing as ‘Manager’, letter to the Editor, S.M.H., December 19, 1892, p. 6.

            67. Leaflets produced by McGarvie Smith and Gunn, various years, in McGarvie Smith Institute papers, Mitchell, MSS 2411.

            68. P. David found the size of the farm particularly significant as a factor in the decision of mid-western American farmers to adopt mechanical reaping in place of hand reaping. There was a threshold in the relative economics of the two methods which was related to the scale of operations. See P. David, ‘The mechanisation of reaping in the ante-bellum Midwest’, in H. Rosovsky (ed.), Industrialisation in Two Systems: Essays in Honor of Alexander Gerschenkron., Wiley, 1966, pp. 3–28. David has incorporated this idea of a threshold into his probit model of diffusion where over time the underlying profitability of the technology changes and so does the number of users as they cross the threshold into the area of profitable use. See P. A. David, A Contribution to the Theory of Diffusion., Stanford Centre for Research in Economic Growth, Memorandum no. 71, Stanford University, 1969.


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