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Biographical entry Ada, Gordon Leslie (1922 - 2012)

FAA

Born
6 December 1922
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died
25 September 2012
Occupation
Microbiologist, Virologist and Immunologist

Summary

Gordon Ada was Professor of Microbiology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University from 1968-1988. Earlier he was at the National Institute of Medical Research, London 1946-1948 and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research 1948-1968.

Details

From the University of Sydney Gordon Ada received a BSc in 1943, an MSc in 1946 and a DSc in 1959. His first research position was at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) from 1944 to 1946, where he worked on ridding blood serum of precipitates. The realisation that he needed to get further experience and learn new techniques led to him moving to London to work at the National Institute for Medical Research. Working there from 1946 to 1948, he mastered moving boundary electrophoresis and ultracentrifugation, which were then new biophysical techniques used for the study of proteins.

While in London he was invited to join the staff of Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI), by the then Director Frank Macfarlane Burnet, to help establish the Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Unit with Henry Holden. He accepted the invitation and stayed at WEHI from 1948 until 1968. During this time he became first a virologist and then an immunologist. As a virologist he studied the influenza virus and the Murray Valley encephalitis virus. In 1962 Ada changed to immunology and began his study of the nature and location of cells that bind antigen. Over the next six years they studied the role of antibody in antigen localisation and demonstrated the absence of antigen in antibody-forming cells.

Ada left WEHI in 1968 to become Head of the Department of Microbiology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. Under his leadership the department combined virological and immunological approaches, becoming an international centre for the study of cellular immune response. In his department during this time were Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel, conducting the research that led to their being awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology.

In 1971, shortly after arriving in Canberra, Ada became interested in international health through his association with the World Health Organization. This involvement lasted more than 20 years and covered eight different programs, most being concerned with the development and use of vaccines.

During 1988-1991 Ada was at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, USA. As director of the School's Center for AIDS Research. In 1988 he delivered the plenary lecture on The prospects for HIV vaccines to the Fourth International AIDS Congress in Stockholm. In 1991 he returned to Canberra as a Visiting Fellow in the Division of Immunology and Cell Biology at the John Curtin School.

Ada was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1964 and has served the Academy in a number of roles. He has also served as President of the Australian Biochemical Society (1966-67) and the Australian Society for Immunology (1975-76). In 2001 he was honoured by induction into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars.
Biography taken from the listed Australian Academy of Science on-line resource.

Events

1943
Education - Bachelor of Science (BSc) completed at the University of Sydney
1944 - 1946
Career position - Research Scientist at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, New South Wales
1946
Education - Master of Science (MSc) completed at the University of Sydney
1946 - 1948
Career position - Research Scientist at the National Institute for Medical Research in Hampstead, UK
1948 - 1961
Career position - Senior Researcher and founding member of the Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Unit at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI), Parkville, Victoria
1959
Education - Doctor of Science (DSc) received from the University of Sydney
1962 - 1968
Career position - Head of the Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Unit at WEHI
1964 -
Award - Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA)
1966 - 1967
Career position - President of the Australian Biochemical Society
1968 - 1988
Career position - Head of the Department of Microbiology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, Canberra
1972 - 1975
Career position - Council member of the Australian Academy of Science
1975 - 1976
Career position - President of the Australian Society for Immunology
1977 - 1981
Career position - Foreign Secretary
1988 - 1991
Career position - Associate Director and then Director of Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, USA

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Gordon Leslie Ada - Records, 1946, MS 047; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Journal Articles

  • Nossal, Gustav J. V. and Parish, Christopher R., 'Gordon Leslie Ada 1922-2012', Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 26, 2015, pp. 164-78. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • Ada, Andrew, Nossal, Gustav and Parish, Chris, 'Gordon Leslie Ada, AO, FAA, 6-12-1922 - 25-9-2012: Insight led to Key Immunity Discoveries', The Saturday Age, 27 October, p. 35. Details

Online Resources

McCarthy, G.J.