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Biographical entry Elix, John Alan (Jack) (1941 - )

Lichen systematist and Organic chemist


Jack Elix is a chemist and lichen systematist of international reputation who led the revival of lichen studies in Australia. He played a key role in bringing chemotaxonomy into general use in lichen systematics, his greatest contribution in this regard being his refining and standardising the application of high-performance liquid chromatography (hplc) to lichens. His skill as a lichen systematist came from a vast experience in collecting, determining and documenting lichens together with an unparalleled grasp of the structure, metabolic pathways and taxonomic significance of lichen compounds. He has published over 450 new species and collected more than 50,000 specimens from across Australia and its dependent islands: these are lodged in the Australian National Herbarium. His research centred on the families Parmeliaceae, Australia's most diverse and ecologically significant group of lichens, and Physiaceae. As a result of his work these families have been studied on a world wide basis. Elix made significant contributions to the lichen volumes of Flora of Australia. In 2014 he published A catalogue of standardized chromatographic data and biosynthetic relationships for lichen substances, an indispensable resource for all lichenologists.



Career position - CSIRO Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Cambridge
Career position - Lecturer in chemistry, Australian National University
Life event - Retired as Professor of Chemistry, Australian National University
Award - Acharius Medal, International Association for Lichenology
Award - Nancy Burbidge Medal, Australasian Systematic Botany Society

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • McCarthy, P. M., Culberson, W. L., Egan, R. S. and Esslinger, T. L., 'Lichenological publications of Jack Elix: 1969-2000', Bibliotheca lichenologica, 78 (2002), 411-29. Details
  • McCarthy, Patrick M., 'John Alan ("Jack") Elix: nominee for the 2015 Nancy T. Burbidge Medal', Australasian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 165 (2015), 34-6. Details


Helen Cohn