A Nobel impact
The University of Adelaide's most recent Nobel Laureate once again exemplifies the quality of graduates who have been recognised worldwide for their creativity, knowledge and skills.
When 1961 MBBS graduate Dr J Robin Warren received the Nobel Prize for Medicine last month, he joined an impressive list of University of Adelaide scientists who have made an impact on people's lives through their research.
The University of Adelaide was a mere 41 years old when it honoured its first Nobel Laureates. In fact, it was a dual celebration when the father and son team of William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg - both were later knighted - won the 1915 Nobel Prize "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays", and also became the first Australians to win the award.
In 1885 Sir William Henry was a Professor of Maths and Physics at the University while his son graduated at Adelaide before going on to Trinity College, Cambridge University.
Howard Walter Florey - later Lord Florey - who graduated MD in 1921 from the University of Adelaide, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945, along with Sir Alexander Fleming and Ernst Boris Chain, "for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases".
The University of Adelaide is now directly associated with four of Australia's 12 Nobel Laureates, and one non-Australian. South African Dr JM Coetzee, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003, is an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide's English department.
Of the other Australian Nobel Prize winners, two studied at Melbourne University - Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1960, Medicine) and John Carew Eccles (1963, Physiology); while Peter Charles Doherty (1996, Medicine) attended the University of Queensland; John Warcup Cornforth (1975, Chemistry) is a Sydney University graduate; and Professor Barry Marshall, who shared the 2005 prize for Medicine with Dr Warren, graduated in 1974 from the University of Western Australia.
Three Australian Nobel Laureates did not study in this country. Queensland-born Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov, who took the Physics prize in 1960, is a graduate of the Leningrad State University; German-born Bernard Katz, who won the Medicine prize in 1970, moved to Australia in 1939, was naturalised in 1941, and was educated in Germany and London; and Sydney author Patrick White, the 1973 Literature prize winner, was educated at Kings College, Cambridge.
University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Professor James McWha congratulated Dr Warren on this exceptional achievement.
"I congratulate Dr Warren for being awarded the Nobel Prize in recognition of his contribution to medicine," Professor McWha says. "It is always a proud moment when a graduate excels, especially on the world stage.
"I am sure everyone at the University will be as thrilled as I am at Dr Warren's achievement," Professor McWha said.
In 1979, Dr Warren first observed the presence of small curved bacteria on a biopsy of the gastric mucosa. Follow-up during the next two years showed that the bacteria were frequently present only on gastric-type epithelium, and were closely linked to a specific variety of gastritis.
In 1981, Dr Warren met Professor Marshall, registrar in the gastroenterology department at the Royal Perth Hospital, and a fruitful partnership followed which demonstrated the clinical significance of the bacteria. They cultured the bacteria, identified as a new species and now called Helicobacter pylori.
They demonstrated the association of H. pylori and peptic ulcers, particularly duodenal ulcers. Eradication of the bacteria resulted in healing of the gastritis and the ulcers rarely recurred.
This month, Dr Warren and Professor Marshall fly to Stockholm for the award ceremony where they will receive their gold medals, a diploma and a cheque for $1.7million. ■
Story Howard Salkow