Frank Fenner

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 rabbit plague through the introduction of myxoma virus.

Early career

Frank Fenner was born in Ballarat on December 12, 1914, but the family moved to Adelaide, South Australia in November 1916. Frank attended Rose Park Primary School and 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 ambulance and casualty clearing station, pathologist to general hospital, and malariologist.

Following his war-time service he was recruited to work at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne by Frank Macfarlane Burnet. Initially they worked on smallpox in 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 Research in New York City, he worked on mycobacterium Bairnsdale bacillus, which causes Buruli ulcer, the third most important mycobacterial disease worldwide after tuberculosis and 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 Microbiology at the new John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, Canberra. Here he began studying viruses again, in particular the myxoma virus.

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 control for the rabbits, Fenner, Frank Macfarlane Burnet, and Ian Clunies Ross famously 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 Studies at 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:
*The 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 Hall are named in honour of Frank Fenner.
*WHO Medal
*ANZAC Peace Prize
*Matthew Flinders Medal
*Britannica Australia Award for Medicine
*2002 Prime Ministers Prize for Science
*ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2005


* [ Australian Academy of Science-Interview with Professor Frank Fenner]
* [ Professor Frank Fenner's Webpage at JCMSR]

External links

* [ Online Guide to Records at the South Australian Museum Archives]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Frank Fenner — Frank John Fenner, AC, CMG, MBE, FRS, (Ballarat, 21 décembre 1914, mort le 22 novembre 2010 à Canberra en Australie[1]) est un scientifique australien dont la carrière éminente s est déroulée dans le domaine de la virologie. Ses deux réalisations …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Frank Fenner — Frank John Fenner AC, CMG, MBE, FRS, FAA (* 21. Dezember 1914 in Ballarat, Victoria; † 22. November 2010[1]) war ein australischer Mikrobiologe und Virologe. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Frühe Jahre …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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