WEHI Revisited

The interviews that make up WEHI Revisited are available on CD. If you would like a copy please contact Community Relations on +61 3 9345 2555 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The interviews listed here are drawn from longer interviews that can be accessed at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, and the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.

WEHI Revisited was produced by Louise Darmody, Sound Memories.

Sir Gustav Nossal

Sir Gustav Nossal was born in Austria in 1931 and, in the wake of the German occupation, emigrated with his family to Australia in 1939. The family settled in Sydney, where Sir Gustav attended St Aloysius’ College and studied medicine at the University of Sydney. His research career at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute began in 1957 under the guidance of Sir Macfarlane Burnet. Nossal’s area of research expertise was immunology. In 1965, Burnet retired as director of the institute and was succeeded by the 34-year-old Nossal, who held the post until his ‘retirement’ in 1996.

During Nossal’s tenure as director, the institute expanded the scope of its research and occupied a new purpose-built facility in Parkville in 1986. Sir Gustav has attracted many supreme honours from Australia and the world at large. He is the Honorary Governor and patron of the institute. Sir Gustav is deeply committed to humanitarian causes, including his work with the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, a particular focus being childhood vaccination in the developing world.

Professor Don Metcalf

Professor Don Metcalf was born in Mittagong, New South Wales, in 1929 and attended several country schools. Like Sir Gustav Nossal and Professor Jacques Miller, Professor Metcalf graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney. He began his research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1954 as the Carden fellow in Cancer Research of the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria. In 1966 he became deputy director of the institute and the head of its Cancer Research Unit. In addition, Professor Metcalf worked as a visiting scientist in Boston, Buffalo, Lausanne, Rijswijk in the US and Cambridge, UK.

His studies in haematology include the discovery and development of the regulatory colony stimulating factors (CSFs), now widely used in clinical medicine to promote blood-cell formation. Professor Metcalf’s work has been honoured through his election to scientific academies in Australia, the UK and the US and by the awarding of many international research prizes. His ‘retirement’ as assistant director in 1996 notwithstanding, Professor Metcalf remains an active laboratory researcher at the institute, studying the regulation of normal and leukaemic blood cells.

Professor Jacques Miller

Professor Jacques Miller was born in France in 1931 and spent much of his childhood in Switzerland and China. With his family, he migrated to Australia in 1941. The family settled in Sydney where Professor Miller (like Sir Gustav Nossal) attended St Aloysius’ College and studied medicine at the University of Sydney. In 1958, Professor Miller obtained a fellowship that enabled him to study for his PhD at the Chester Beatty Research Institute in London. Professor Miller’s work on leukaemia led him to discover the immunological function of the thymus. In 1966, he returned to Australia, having been invited by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s director, Sir Gustav Nossal, to be head of the institute’s Experimental Pathology Unit. For his discoveries in the UK and Australia, Professor Miller has been awarded the highest international academic honours, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London. Like Sir Gustav and Professor Metcalf, Professor Miller ‘retired’ in 1996, but he remains active in a scholarly role in the field of immunology.

Professor Ian Mackay

Ian Mackay was born in Melbourne in 1922 but spent much of his childhood in Perth. He completed his secondary school education at Melbourne Grammar. Professor Mackay graduated MBBS in 1945 from the University of Melbourne with MD in 1952. Although his early graduate years included bouts of TB, Professor Mackay served with the Australian Military Mission, Berlin, Germany in 1948-1949. He undertook medical research in the UK and US before moving to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1955, where he became head of the Clinical Research Unit in 1963. Professor Mackay became fascinated by the then unfashionable idea of autoimmunity as a cause of disease. In 1963, he and Macfarlane Burnet published a definitive monograph on the subject, firmly placing autoimmunity on the research map. Mackay defined major autoimmune diseases of the liver and devised a life-saving protocol for autoimmune hepatitis that remains standard today. He also advanced knowledge on many other expressions of autoimmunity. Since retiring from the institute in 1987, Professor Mackay has co-edited the standard international text, The Autoimmune Diseases.

Dr Margaret Holmes

Dr Margaret Holmes was born in Kew, Victoria, in 1921 and attended Ruyton Girls’ School. Employed at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute as a junior laboratory technician, she subsequently undertook a science course at the University of Melbourne, initially part-time. Dr Holmes’ first interest at the university was epidemiology, which she studied further at the Central Public Health Laboratory at Colindale, London and later at Fairfield Hospital, Melbourne. Dr Holmes rejoined the institute in 1958 and became manager in the late 1970s. Her main responsibilities included the selection, training and supervision of laboratory technical staff and the development of Laboratory Animal Services. She also had a major role in the design and construction of the institute’s animal breeding facilities at the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Laboratories at Kew. In the early and mid 1980s, she was closely involved in the design and construction of the laboratories in the current Parkville building, liaising between scientific staff and the architects. Dr Holmes officially retired in December 1986, but has continued her relationship with the institute.