- Frank Fenner
Frank John Fenner (born
21 December, 1914) is an Australian scientist with a distinguished career in the field of virology. His two greatest achievements are cited as overseeing the eradication of smallpox, and the control of Australia's rabbitplague through the introduction of myxomavirus.
Frank Fenner was born in
Ballaraton December 12, 1914, but the family moved to Adelaide, South Australiain November 1916. Frank attended Rose Park Primary Schooland Thebarton Technical School. He completed his undergraduate studies in Science (1938) and Medicine (1942) at the University of Adelaide. From 1940-1946 he was a Captain and Major in the Australian Army Medical Corps with service in Australia, Palestine, Egypt, New Guinea, and Borneo, as medical officer in field ambulanceand casualty clearing station, pathologistto general hospital, and malariologist.
Following his war-time service he was recruited to work at
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Researchin Melbourne by Frank Macfarlane Burnet. Initially they worked on smallpoxin mice, mousepox, for which he coined the term 'mousepox' and later on poxvirus genetics. In 1949 he received a fellowship to study at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Researchin New York City, he worked on mycobacteriumBairnsdale bacillus, which causes Buruli ulcer, the third most important mycobacterial disease worldwide after tuberculosisand leprosy. Here he worked with and was influenced by René Dubos, who invented the phrase 'act local, think global'.
Career in Canberra
Returning to Australia in 1949, he was appointed Professor of
Microbiologyat the new John Curtin School of Medical Researchat the Australian National University, Canberra. Here he began studying viruses again, in particular the myxomavirus.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Australia had severe rabbit plagues. Fenner's work on the myxoma virus showed that initially it killed rabbits in nine to 11 days and was 99.5% lethal. Under heavy selection pressure, the few rabbits that survived developed resistance, which meant that the pest was never completely eradicated, but their numbers were reduced. Prior to the release of the virus as a
biological controlfor the rabbits, Fenner, Frank Macfarlane Burnet, and Ian Clunies Rossfamously injected themselves with myxoma virus, to prove it was not dangerous for humans.
Fenner was Director of the John Curtin School from 1967 to 1973. During this time he was also Chairman of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication. Professor Fenner announced the eradication of the disease to the World Health Assembly in 1980. This success story is regarded as the greatest achievement of the
World Health Organisation. Before its eradication, smallpox was one of the world's most virulent viruses, responsible for millions of deaths, and leaving many of the victims who survived with disfiguring scars for life.
Professor Fenner has an abiding interest in the environment, and was the foundation Director of the
Centre for Resources and Environmental Studiesat the ANU (1973), where he worked until his retirement in 1979. He is a keen supporter of Australia having an ecologically, socially sustainable population. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the John Curtin School of Medical Research.
Of the many honours Professor Fenner received throughout his career, there are the following:
Japan Prize(Preventive Medicine), 1988
*Copley medal of the Royal Society, 1995
*Albert Einstein World Award for Science, 2000
*Clunies Ross Lifetime Contribution National Science and Technology Award, 2002
*Both the Frank Fenner building which houses the ANU Medical School and Faculty of Science, and a residential college
Fenner Hallare named in honour of Frank Fenner.
*ANZAC Peace Prize
*Matthew Flinders Medal
*Britannica Australia Award for Medicine
*2002 Prime Ministers Prize for Science
*ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2005
* [http://www.science.org.au/scientists/ff.htm Australian Academy of Science-Interview with Professor Frank Fenner]
* [http://jcsmr.anu.edu.au/fenner/index.htm Professor Frank Fenner's Webpage at JCMSR]
* [http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/page/default.asp?site=1&page=Archives_Collections Online Guide to Records at the South Australian Museum Archives]
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