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July 2009 Issue
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Festival of Ideas honours a great mind


This year's Festival of Ideas is dedicated to a great Australian and University of Adelaide graduate, Professor Frank Fenner AC CMG MBE.

With the theme Pushing the Limits, the 6th Adelaide Festival of Ideas will be held in Adelaide from Thursday to Sunday, 9-12 July.

The event features more than 40 leaders in their fields from Australia and overseas, who will discuss and engage with the public on major topics of concern today, including genetic engineering, population, water, health, astrophysics and freedom of speech.

The festival is widely accessible to the public, with more than 50 free daytime sessions and three ticketed evening sessions.

Among the Australian speakers is Professor Chris Mortensen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Adelaide.

This year's event is dedicated to a great Australian medical scientist, Professor Frank Fenner.

Professor Fenner graduated in medicine from the University of Adelaide in 1938 and completed his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1942. He has had an outstanding career as a microbiologist and world expert on pox virus. He conducted pioneering studies to investigate how common virus infections spread through the body and produce disease, and he played a major role in the introduction of myxoma virus to combat Australia's rabbit plagues, which were causing great harm to the agricultural industry and the environment.

Professor Fenner was Chairman of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication. Smallpox was one of the world's most virulent viruses, responsible for millions of deaths and leaving many surviving victims with disfiguring scars. In 1980 Professor Fenner announced the eradication of smallpox to the World Health Assembly.

He has received numerous awards and honours including the Japan Prize - a prize for applied science regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize. He has been made a Companion of the Order of Australia, a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George and a Member of the British Empire.

Other major honours include the Copley medal of the Royal Society (1995), Albert Einstein World Award for Science (2000), Clunies Ross Lifetime Contribution National Science and Technology Award (2002), WHO Medal, ANZAAS Medal, ANZAC Peace Prize, Matthew Flinders Medal, Britannica Australia Award for Medicine, 2002 Prime Ministers Prize for Science, and ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2005.

In 2007, Professor Fenner was awarded a Doctor of the University (honoris causa) from the University of Adelaide.

For more information about the Festival of Ideas, including a full list of speakers and the program, please visit:

Festival of Ideas giveaway - online Adelaidean readers

Two lucky online Adelaidean readers have the chance to win one of two double passes to each of the three ticketed evening sessions for the 2009 Festival of Ideas.

The sessions are:

8.00pm Thursday 9 July at Elder Hall
Phillip Adams will dedicate the Festival to Professor Frank Fenner immediately followed by the first evening session, Where do big ideas come from? with speakers Patricia Churchland, Antonio Lazcano, Bruce Petty, Simon Singh and Rachel Webster, chaired by Phillip Adams.

8.00pm Friday 10 July at Elder Hall
Who cares... the limits of health with Fran Baum, Ngaire Brown, Geoff Gallop and Alex Wodak, chaired by Peter Mares.

8.00pm Saturday 11 July at Elder Hall
Free Spin: Controlling the message and the limits of free speech with Zainah Anwar, Fred Chaney, George Megalogenis and MC Mehta, chaired by Peter Mares.

Update: please note, these double passes have now been won.

Please visit the Festival of Ideas website for more information about the free sessions, as well as how to buy tickets for the three evening sessions listed above. Tickets are $28 per person for each session.

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Professor Frank Fenner with sister Winifred at a University of Adelaide graduation ceremony in 2007
Photo by Candy Gibson

Professor Frank Fenner with sister Winifred at a University of Adelaide graduation ceremony in 2007
Photo by Candy Gibson

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Festival of Ideas 2009 speaker Simon Singh.

Festival of Ideas 2009 speaker Simon Singh.
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Festival of Ideas 2009 speaker Patricia Churchland.

Festival of Ideas 2009 speaker Patricia Churchland.
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