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Gustav Nossal

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Gustav Nossal
Nossal at the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists in 2007
Gustav Victor Joseph Nossal

(1931-06-04) 4 June 1931 (age 93)
Bad Ischl, Austria
Alma materUniversity of Sydney (BSc),
University of Melbourne (PhD)
Known forHis contributions to the fields of antibody formation and immunological tolerance
AwardsAlbert Einstein World Award of Science (1990)
Scientific career
InstitutionsThe Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne
Doctoral studentsMichael F. Good

Sir Gustav Victor Joseph Nossal AC CBE FRS FAA FTSE (born 4 June 1931) is an Austrian-born Australian research biologist. He is famous for his contributions to the fields of antibody formation and immunological tolerance.

Early life and education[edit]

Nossal's family was from Vienna, Austria. He was born four weeks prematurely in Bad Ischl while his mother was on holiday. His family left their home town of Vienna for Australia in 1939 following Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria. As his father's grandparents were Jewish, he was also considered Jewish and at risk of being sent to concentration camps. In an interview with Adam Spencer, Nossal noted that his father was not a professing Jew but of Jewish ethnicity as he had been baptised a Roman Catholic as a child. Nossal remarked that his father "therefore thought that he would be somewhat protected from the Holocaust-type predicament. Of course, he hadn't properly read Mein Kampf. It was all spelt out there: if your four grandparents were Jewish, then you were Jewish."[1] He was baptised and remains a practising Roman Catholic.[2]

Nossal showed interest in medicine and wanted to become a doctor since the age of seven.[3] When he first attended school in Australia, Nossal spoke no English[4] but he graduated from St Aloysius' College in 1947[5] as the dux of the college.[6] In 1948, he entered the Sydney Medical School, graduating later with first-class honours from the University of Sydney. At the age of 26, he left his job in Sydney and moved to Melbourne to work with Macfarlane Burnet in medical science at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and gained his PhD degree at the University of Melbourne in 1960.

Religious beliefs[edit]

On describing his views on religion Nossal said:

For me, a large part of that is a tremendously strong identification with the mission of the Church. An instinct for justice is central to that mission and central to being a Catholic... Science deals with fundamentally repeatable, objective, verifiable observations. It deals with hypotheses of which you can at least say "this is not patently false." But the human experience, on the other hand, does not just deal with verifiable facts. The human experience has Shakespeare. It has Beethoven. It has Thomas Aquinas. There is no scientist alive who can tell me how the brain of Shakespeare differs from the brain of the worst scribbler for the tabloid press. This is not yet and may never be in the realm of science... We have to access this huge other area of human experience through other means. Call them the humanities. Theology, of course, is one of the great humanities. A human being struggling to understand the cosmos and to understand his or her own consciousness is not at all antipathetic or opposed to me struggling to understand how cells make antibody molecules.

— [2]


Following the retirement of Macfarlane Burnet in 1965, at the age of 35 Nossal became director of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, a position that he kept until 1996. In parallel, he was Professor of Medical Biology at the University of Melbourne. Nossal's research was in fundamental immunology, in the field of "antibody formation and immunological tolerance".[7] He has written five books and 530 scientific articles in this and related fields.

Nossal has been President (1970-1973) of the 30,000-member world body of immunology, the International Union of Immunological Societies; President of the Australian Academy of Science (1994-1998); a member of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) (1989 to 1998); and Chairman of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (1987-1996). He has been chairman of the committee overseeing the World Health Organization's Vaccines and Biologicals Program (1993-2002) and Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Council of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Children's Vaccine Program (1998-2003). He was Deputy Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation from 1998 to 2000. He was Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Global Foundation,[8] The purpose of the foundation was to "encourage Australia’s sustainable national development in a global context." Sir Gustav is a member of the Patrons Council of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria and of the advisory board of the Health Impact Fund.

Personal life[edit]

Nossal is married to Lyn whom he met and later married on completion of his medical course at the University of Sydney. Together, they have four children and nine grandchildren.[9][10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spencer, Adam (12 November 2009). "The World in Sydney — Sir Gustav Nossal — ABC Sydney". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Nossal, Sir Gustav Joseph Victor — Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive". Sydney.edu.au. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Sir Gustav Nossal in Forging the Path, A Find My Pathway Interview". Find My Pathway. 30 October 2018.
  4. ^ Cincotta, Liz (19 June 2008). "Passage to Australia". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  5. ^ Middleton, Chris (4 March 2011). "The Principal" (PDF). The Gonzagon (Weekly Newsletter of St Aloysius' College). p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Sir Gustav Nossal | The Nossal High School". Nossalhs.vic.edu.au. 4 June 1931. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Biographical entry — Nossal, Gustav Joseph Victor (1931 – )". Bright Sparcs. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  8. ^ "Our Members: Office bearers". The Global Foundation. Archived from the original on 9 March 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  9. ^ Thompson, Peter (28 April 2004). "Talking Heads – Sir Gustav Nossal". Talking Heads. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Sir Gustav Nossal, immunologist". Interview by Max Blythe. Australian Academy of Science. 1998. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  11. ^ "Past Winners". Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2023.
  12. ^ "Honorary Members". Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Nossaly, Gustav Joseph Victor: The Order of the British Empire — Commander (Civil)". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  14. ^ "NOSSAL, Gustav Joseph Victor: Knight Bachelor". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 1 January 1977. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  15. ^ "Macfarlane Burnet Medal and Lecture". Australian Academy of Science. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  16. ^ "The ANZAAS Medal". ANZAAS. Archived from the original on 27 December 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  17. ^ "Gustav Nossal | Royal Society".
  18. ^ Rostrum Victoria, Friday 12 November 1982.
  19. ^ "Sir Gustav Joseph Victor Nossal CBE AC FRS HonFRSE". 17 July 2019.
  20. ^ "NOSSAL, Gustav Joseph Victor: Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 12 June 1989. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  21. ^ "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 1990". Archived from the original on 29 December 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  22. ^ "SVI Patron – Gustav JV Nossal". St Vincents Institute. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  23. ^ "Gustav Nossal – Virology Down Under". University of Queensland. Archived from the original on 18 April 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  24. ^ "Elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Victoria". 22 May 2013.
  25. ^ Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.
  26. ^ "NOSSAL, Gustav: Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  27. ^ "Previous Legends". Stamp collections. Australia Post. 2012. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
  28. ^ "The Nossal Institute for Global Health". The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  29. ^ "Ѹ – ȸ – ȸ Ұ". Archived from the original on 11 October 2017.

External links[edit]