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How Legends Began: The History of the Kolling Institute

By October 29, 2021 No Comments

The care that you’ve shown your family and friends in your lifetime is your legacy. The care that you and your loved ones receive from our healthcare services and researchers is ours. 

The Northern Sydney Local Health District has been at the forefront of innovation in health research and patient care in Australia for more than 130 years. But do you know how our hospitals and research units all began?  

Introducing ‘How Legends Began,’ a series that takes a look at how the generosity of the community throughout the years has helped build the hospitals and research units we now know today as Royal North Shore Hospital, Ryde Hospital, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital and the Kolling Institute.  

Since the establishment of Royal North Shore Hospital in 1885, our patients have been at the heart of everything that our clinicians, healthcare workers and researchers do in serving the community.  

From the joyous moment of a baby’s first breath, to helping a family say goodbye to a loved one and all of the broken bones, accidents, treatments, and check-ups in between – our healthcare workers feel privileged to be able to provide our community with a ‘lifetime of care’.  

By living and working with a spirit of service, our district has strived to always provide excellence in healthcare and patient services – it is a legacy we continue to build on to this day.  

This got us thinking – what is a legacy and how does it form?  

We know this isn’t something that people often think about and not normally until they are much older, but why is this? If we want to leave our mark on the world or for our lives to stand for something, it can never be too early to start this journey.  

To inspire you to start thinking about your legacy, we take a look at the Kolling Institute – the oldest medical research institute in New South Wales which all began thanks to the generosity of one woman and her desire to enrich medical research in memory of her husband.  

Kolling Institute: This legend began with a Gift in Will 

Originally named the Institute of Pathological Research of NSW, the organisation was established in a cottage within the grounds of Royal North Shore Hospital in 1920. 

Charles Kolling Memorial Laboratory

In 1929, Mrs Eva Kolling OBE made a generous gift of £5,000 (equivalent to $644,400 in today’s AUD) in memory of her late husband Charles Kolling to fund medical research for the community.  

This generous donation was used to fund the construction of what was one of the first medical research laboratories in New South Wales – the Charles Kolling Memorial Laboratory.

Throughout her life, Eva continued to have ongoing engagement with the research laboratory and as a result, developed a keen curiosity and passion for the advancement of medical research.  

Upon her passing in 1941, Eva generously left a legacy gift in her Will to continue and eventually expand the laboratory.  

Eva Kolling laying the foundation stone for the new laboratory in 1930

What started as a single laboratory has since expanded into a fully-fledged medical research institute – the Kolling Institute – which is focused on answering some of the greatest health and medical challenges facing our world today. 

Now a joint partnership between The University of Sydney and the Northern Sydney Local Health District, the Kolling Institute celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020, and is the oldest medical research institute in New South Wales. 

The Kolling Institute continues to be at the forefront of research and prides itself on turning scientific discoveries into medical realities in clinical practice across its three Priority Research Areas: Musculoskeletal, Neuroscience and Pain, and Cardiovascular and Renal.    

Modern Kolling Institute

What legacy do you want to leave?  

The reason we call a Gift in Will a legacy gift is because it is something that an individual is giving after their lifetime. They may never get to see the impact of their donation but the rest of the community who benefits from their generosity often remembers them for it – it becomes their legacy.  

Eva Kolling’s legacy gift laid the foundations for medical research for generations to come. It is a gift that we are continuing to see the impact of today – more than 80 years on and we are still grateful to Eva. 

We are so grateful that the number of people within our community who have chosen to donate or include a gift in their Will to the Northern Sydney Local Health District has significantly increased over the last few years. Our community’s growing generosity is continuing to have a huge impact on our services.  

Have you or a loved one’s lives been touched by a medical condition or illness? Or perhaps the pandemic has caused you to reflect on the role that healthcare and medical research plays in your life? Whatever it may be, if you have an interest in creating a legacy that will improve the future of healthcare, then we want to talk to you!  


To learn more about how Gifts in Wills have impacted our hospitals and research units 
please click here. 

In the next edition of the ‘How Legends Began’ series, we take a look at the history of Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital and discover how a generous donation helped build the hospital we know today. 

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