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Biographical entry Austin, Colin Russell (Bunny) (1914 - 2004)


12 September 1914
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Buderim, Queensland, Australia


Colin Austin was considered by many to be the founder of the modern study of embryology. His outstanding contributions in field of mammalian reproduction include: co-discovery of the phenomenon of sperm capacitation; the first description of the acrosome reaction of mammalian spermatozoa; the discovery of the zona reaction; and the first detailed description of normal and abnormal fertilisation. His early career was with the CSIR Division of Animal Health where he started his research on fertilisation and early embryonic development in rats and rabbits. After working on army diet and nutrition during WWII, and one year at the Medical Research Council Laboratory at Mill Hill, United Kingdom, Austin joined the staff of the National Institute of Medical Research. For five years he held posts in the United States studying liquefaction of primate semen, preservation of primate spermatozoa by freezing and the use of human postmenopausal gonadotrophin to stimulate ovarian follicular and oocyte development in monkeys. In 1967 he became the Charles Darwin Professor of Animal Embryology at the University of Cambridge, where he collaborated with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe on human in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer. Austin published landmark works, being the author of The mammalian egg (1961) and senior editor of Reproduction in mammals (1972-1980; 2nd ed (982-1986).



Education - BVSc, University of Sydney
Education - BSc, University of Sydney
Education - MSc, University of Sydney
1940 - 1954
Career position - Research officer, CSIR Division of Animal
1941 - 1943
Career event - Seconded to Dried Fruits Section, CSIR Division of Food Preservation and Transport
Career position - Research officer, Medical Research Council Laboratory, Mill Hill, United Kingdom
Career position - Research officer, National Institute for Medical Research, United Kingdom
Education - DSc, University of Sydney
1958 - 1961
Career position - Head of Laboratory Animals Division, National Institute for Medical Research, United Kingdom
1962 - 1968
Career position - F. R. Lillie Memorial Teaching Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
1964 - 1967
Career position - Professor of Embryology, Medical School, Tulane University, New Orleans
1967 - 1981
Career position - Charles Darwin Professor in Animal Embryology, Department of Physiology, University of Cambridge
Life event - Retired
Career position - Fellow, Australian Academy of Science

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  • Short, Roger V., 'Colin Russell Austin 1914-2004', Historical Records of Australian Science, 25 (2014), 264-72. Details


Helen Cohn