Sir Macfarlane Burnet

Sir Macfarlane Burnet
(1899 - 1985)

Australian physician, virologist, and recipient, with Sir Peter Medawar, of the 1960 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of acquired immunological tolerance to tissue transplants.
Burnet received his medical degree in 1923 from the University of Melbourne and was a research fellow (1926-27) at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London. He became assistant director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research at Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1928 and later (1944-65) was its director and professor of experimental medicine at the University of Melbourne. He was knighted in 1951.

Burnet, in addition to his work on human transplants, discovered a method for identifying bacteria by the viruses (bacteriophages) that attack them, and he developed a technique--now standard laboratory practice--of culturing viruses in living chick embryos. He increased knowledge of the way influenza viruses cause infection and did significant work on such diseases as myxomatosis, Murray Valley (now known as Australian Arbo-encephalitis) fever, and Q fever. He isolated the causal organism of Q fever, Rickettsia burneti (Coxiella burneti).

Among his publications are Viruses and Man (1953), Principles of Animal Virology (1955), The Clonal Selection Theory of Acquired Immunity (1959), Immunological Surveillance (1970), and Credo and Comment: A Scientist Reflects (1979).


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