Childhood & Early Life
Gustav Nossal was born as Gustav Victor Joseph Nossal on June 4, 1931 in Bad Ischl, Austria.
Since his paternal lineage was Jewish, the Nossal family was at a risk during Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria, despite young Nossal being baptized as Roman Catholic. To evade danger, the family shifted base to Australia in 1939
Completing his preliminary education, he enrolled at the St Aloysius' College. Interestingly, in spite of not knowing English, he graduated from the same as the dux of the College in 1947.
Following year, he attained admission at the Sydney Medical School, from where he graduated with first-class honors, earning a BSc in Medicine in 1953 and a Bachelor in Surgery in 1955.
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Completing his studies, he took up a job in Sydney at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital but did not continue in the same for long and in 1957, he moved to Melbourne, where he started working with Macfarlane Burnet in medical science at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. In 1960, he earned his PhD degree from University of Melbourne.
Meanwhile for two years, from 1959 to 1961, he served as the Assistant Professor of Genetics at the Stanford University before returning to Australia to work with Burnet.
Following Burnet’s retirement in 1965, he took up the latter position and served as the Director of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, which he continued until 1996. However, this wasn’t the only profile that he was holding. He concurrently served as the professor of biology at the University of Melbourne.
For a year each in 1968 and later in 1976, he served at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and later as a Special Consultant to the World Health Organization.
During his term as the Director of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, he not just helped in the expansion and diversification of the institute’s research work but also built on the work started off by his mentor, thus laying the foundation of modern immunology.
Throughout his life, he researched on the various segments of immunology or nature’s defences. His main work comprised of finding out how the body manufactures the precious antibody molecules that helps an individual to be free from infection.
The magnum opus of his research work was the discovery of the ‘one cell-one antibody’ rule. According to this rule, each B lymphocyte developed in bone marrow secretes a specific antibody in response to an encounter with a specific foreign antigen.
His discoveries in fundamental immunology and related fields are mostly summarized in his 530 scientific articles and five books which he has published over the course of his career. These include ‘Antibodies and Immunity’ in 1968, ‘Antigens, Lymphoid Cells and the Immune Response’ in 1971, ‘Medical Science and Human Goals’ in 1975, ‘Nature's Defences’ in 1978, and ‘Reshaping Life: Key Issues in Genetic Engineering’ in 1984.
He served as the President of the International Union of Immunological Societies from 1986 to 1989 and of the Australian Academy of Science from 1994 to 1998. Meanwhile, from 1989 to 1998, he served as the member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) and Chairman of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation from 1987 to 1996.
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From 1993 to 2002, he chaired the committee in charge of supervising the World Health Organization’s Global Program for Vaccines and Immunization. Additionally, he also chaired the Strategic Advisory Council of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Children’s Vaccine Program from 1998 to 2003.
For two years, from 1998 to 2000, he served as the Deputy Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Global Foundation. Furthermore, he is a member of the Patrons Council of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria and of the Advisory Board of the Health Impact Fund.
Awards & Achievements
For his extensive contribution in the field of medical research and science, in 1970, he was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Seven years later in 1977, he was knighted for his revolutionary discovery in the field of immunology.
In 1982, he was conferred with the ANZAAS medal.
For his service in the field of research, medicine and science, he was bestowed with the prestigious honor of Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989.
In 1990, he was conferred with the highly-esteemed Albert Einstein World Award of Science.
In the year 1996, he won the Koch Gold Medal. The award is usually given to scientists and researchers who make major advances in the field of biomedical sciences, especially in microbiology and immunology.
In 1997, he was identified and listed as one of the 100 Australians who were Australia's Living National Treasures. Three years later, he was named Australian of the Year.
For his study of antibody formation and immunological tolerance, he was presented with the Centenary Medal in 2001. Following year, his portrait was featured on an Australian postage stamp.
In 2006, he was inducted as honorary member of the Monash University Golden Key Society. Four year later, he was awarded the Inaugural Monash Medal as an Outstanding Australian for his accomplishment in the field of medical science and research. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award by Monash University Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Personal Life & Legacy
It was while he was working at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Sydney that he married his wife, Lyn.
Over the years, other than being involved in research work and scientific discovery, he has been heavily involved in charitable work and is the patron of a number of organizations.
Several institutions of research and study have been named in his honor including The Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne and The Nossal High School located at the Berwick campus of Monash University