Purpose of Award
The Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF) is the official organisation of returned Alexander von Humboldt Fellows in Australia. The Distinguished Fellow Award recognises those AAvHF members who have excelled in their professional field and/or have provided service to the organisation.
Further information can be downloaded here.
Professor Allan Bretag has had a very distinguished lifetime’s work in the investigation of membrane physiology, with a scholarly output of seven books as editor, sole or joint chapter author, 56 professionally reviewed journal articles and 138 conference presentations, many involving peer review. After graduating from the University of Adelaide with a PhD thesis entitled “Muscle Cell Membranes and Chloride Ions”, Allan’s career progressed through the School of Pharmacy at the South Australian Institute of Technology (now the University of South Australia) to the level of Professor of Physiology, a position from which he retired in 2005 only to continue to the present time as a most active Adjunct Professor.
Professor Bretag’s early research involved the investigation of the voltage-gated chloride channel of the sarcolemma and the characterisation of the transporter proteins involved in the transfer of ions across the muscle membrane. As a pioneer in the elucidation of these processes he soon became a leading authority in the field. Disordered ion transport underlies the phenomenon of myotonia, i.e., the continuous depolarisation of the muscle membrane with maintained contraction, an abnormality which accompanies several human myopathies, notably Thomsen’s and Becker’s myotonic diseases. After the proteins concerned with ion transfer had been characterised, the next step was to sequence their genes in order to identify the mutations which underlie the many known human, ion-channel diseases. Working along these lines Allan described their molecular pathogenesis and clinical correlation. Professor Bretag’s lifetime’s work is well represented in a Chapter entitled “The CLC-Related Proteins in Diseases” recently published in the “CRC Handbook of Ion Channels” which is now the standard international reference in the field.
Throughout his academic career, he has had a reputation as a charismatic teacher and has supervised 15 postgraduate students to successful PhD degrees.
Allan’s von Humboldt Fellowship took him to the I Physiologisches Institut, Universität des Saarlandes in 1972. He has been an active member of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF) since its inception in 1983, with regular participation in both local activities in South Australia and national activities such as the Biennial Scholarly Meetings of the AAvHF of which he is a Life Member, or Australian Colloquia hosted by the Foundation itself.
Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM, has an outstanding reputation as a researcher and scholar, built and maintained across a number of fields as her professional career developed. At the conclusion of her PhD in organic chemistry at Monash University, with a thesis entitled “Methyleneketene: Pyrolytic Genetion and Properties”, Gabrielle went to Freiburg as a postdoctoral researcher. The chemistry discipline was strong in Germany, but in choosing this destination rather than the more-traditional Britain or America, Gabrielle demonstrated that she was an independent thinker who was not prepared just to follow the crowd. In Freiburg she was supported by an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship from 1977-1979.
On returning to Australia, Gabrielle took up two appointments: one in the Department of Biochemistry at Monash University where she continued her research based on organic chemistry but with a biological focus; and the second as Warden of the nearby student residence, Mannix College where she honed her leadership and management skills. The latter was to become her eventual lifetime work within the Australian Catholic University where she began as Rector at the Aquinas Campus and progressed to Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), the position from which she retired in 2011. But “retirement” is not a word which Professor McMullen interprets literally and she continues very active community work as Trustee of Mary Aikenhead Ministries.
Gabrielle’s laboratory career was left behind upon her appointment at the Australian Catholic University. She continued, however, with the history of Australian science, publishing regularly in the Australian Academy of Science journal, Historical Records of Australian Science about significant contributors, often of German origin, to science and technology in this country. Professor McMullen has an overall output of 145 publications, covering journal articles, book chapters, monographs and conference proceedings. She was honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012 “for service to tertiary education, particularly through the Australian Catholic University, as an administrator and academic leader, to the discipline of science and to the community.”
Professor McMullen is a Life Member of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF), having regularly presented her research at its Biennial Scholarly Meetings. She has contributed as a convenor or co-convenor of three of these Meetings and has been a member of the National Committee since 1993, having held the position of President since 2012.
Professor David St Clair Black AO FAA FRSN FRACI has made a distinguished contribution to both Organic Chemistry and major international academic bodies. Currently, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), he has also had academic appointments at the Universities of Sydney, Cambridge, Columbia, Monash, Zürich and Würzburg, where he held his Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. He has combined significant periods of academic leadership of his Department/School with productive research in Organic Chemistry leading to a major book and over 300 research publications.
Professor Black has been most active in promoting the discipline of chemistry and science both nationally and internationally. He has been involved with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and was its national President in 1998 – further, he has been awarded its highly prestigious Rennie Medal, H G Smith Medal, Birch Medal and the Leighton Medal, the last its highest award. Internationally, he has been an external advisor to chemistry departments in three universities in Malaysia as well as IDP Consultant and Team Leader for the AusAID Fellowship Project Joint Selection for Indonesia (1990-2000). Significantly, Professor Black was Secretary General of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry from 2003-2011 when he was elected Secretary General of the International Council for Science until 2017. In the citation leading to his 2011 election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, he “is described as a world-wide ambassador of Australian Science”.
Actively involved in the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows since 1985, Professor Black has regularly attended and presented at biennial meetings. He has fostered the ideals of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Association both in his own work and in promoting the Foundation to young researchers.
Professor Robert Edward Robson has given most distinguished service to the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows since its inception in 1983. Over a period of some 15 years he served in turn as its Secretary, Vice-President and second President (2009-2012), as well as Queensland representative on the executive for many years. Most notable developments during his presidency were the introduction of the Peter Schwerdtfeger Award and Distinguished Fellows and the Humboldt lecture scheme which he launched with a successful event on climate change in 2010. He has been actively involved in recruiting fellows to the Association, convening and presenting at the its biennial meetings, and promoting a strong relationship between the Association and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn.
In an interdisciplinary career, Professor Robson has also made distinguished, internationally recognised contributions to physics and meteorology, holding the Hitachi Chair of Electrical Engineering at Keio University (1994), and professorial positions at the University of Oklahoma (2005) and James Cook University (from 2008). His achievements include 134 peer-reviewed articles, 51 conference papers and 2 books to date, with a third book under contract; the supervision to successful completion of 12 postgraduate theses; major research grants; and prestigious international fellowships and invited visits to laboratories in Belgium, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as Germany, where he undertook several periods as a research fellow supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the final ones being at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg (2011, 2012, 2013). Following his retirement in 2013 Professor Robson was appointed Adjunct Professor at James Cook and Griffith Universities, and is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University.
Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson has made a distinguished contribution to higher education and research. He played a foundational role in the introduction of Materials Science at Monash University and, upon his retirement, was appointed Honorary Principal Fellow at The University of Melbourne. His significant and internationally-recognised research achievements in Materials Science and Condensed Matter Physics include supervision to successful completion of 22 higher degree research students, gaining competitive grants and funded research partnerships with industry, and over 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals, monographs and conference proceedings. He also has a record of major contributions to his profession, including to the Victorian Branch Committee of the then Institute of Metals and Materials, Australasia and as Technical Editor for the Institute’s national journal, Materials Australasia, and through membership of a number of conference committees for the Australian Institute of Physics.
Dr George Gream has had a distinguished scientific career as an Organic Chemist, with his achievements recognised by promotion to Reader and the award of Fellowship of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. He made a 38-year contribution to the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Adelaide, including as Deputy Chair for a number of years and Chair in 1985-1988. His research encompassing natural product chemistry, photochemistry, carbonium ion studies and some aspects of cyclooctatetraene chemistry was supported by national competitive grants and led to over 50 publications in national and international journals. Dr Gream made a further 15-year contribution to the University of Adelaide as a member of its Works of Art Committee, including ten years as Convenor. Upon his retirement, the University appointed him Visiting Research Fellow, in which role he continued to serve for a number of years through research and teaching activities.
A founding and Life Member of the Association, Dr Gream has a distinguished and long-standing record of service to the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF) as inaugural Treasurer from 1985-2004. As well as establishing the Association on a sound financial basis, he provided leadership, wise counsel and support to its members over this 20 year period. Through his long and selfless service as Treasurer and his enthusiasm and support for all activities of the AAvHF, at both State and national level, he made an outstanding contribution to the establishment and development of the Association.
Dr David Sydney Teakle M Agric Sc (Univ Qld), PhD (Univ Calif Berkeley), an agriculturist and plant pathologist, worked initially in the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and then at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Later he spent 28 years in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Queensland, where his research focused on diseases of plants caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi. Significantly, recognition and control of microbial pathogens in crops is necessary to maximize food production and to work towards freedom from hunger. His research, published collaboratively in 100 research papers, included some notable advances in the understanding of plant diseases and the microbial world. At Berkeley, it was shown for the first time that a chytrid fungus was responsible for the transmission of a soil-borne plant virus.
Other research demonstrated that some viruses infecting plants are released from the roots into the soil in large amounts, and can infect seedlings growing in the soil without a fungal or other vector. In Queensland, the damaging sugarcane ratoon stunt disease, thought to be caused by an unknown virus, was discovered to be caused by a tiny bacterium. In retirement, Dr Teakle has established and chaired a committee within the International Society for Plant Pathology to work towards the standardization of common names of plant diseases.
Dr George F. Bornemissza OAM began his study of beetles as a teenager in Baja, Hungary. Research in Budapest towards his PhD was interrupted in 1946 by the Soviet invasion and Communist takeover of his country, as a result of which he fled to Austria, completing his doctorate in Innsbruck. He then migrated to Australia, arriving on 31 December 1950, and was determined to make a difference, to do something NEW and BIG! in his land of choice.
This aspiration was realised in providing bovine dung beetles for the benefit of the pastoral industry and he embarked on his 20 year long project with the CSIRO, importing successfully about 50 species of bovine dung beetles from Africa and Mediterranean Europe, coincidentally reducing bush fly numbers. Since his retirement, he has created his Opus Magnus, Forest Beauties of the Beetle World: A Tribute to Biodiversity and an Appeal for its Preservation, one of the most comprehensive and spectacularly mounted displays of beetles anywhere in the world, which he has donated to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the most recent addition of 1,037 specimens from the Neotropic region having occurred in June 2011. Dr Bornemisszas awards include: his Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (Munich), 1960-61; Britannica Award, 1973, For his application of ecology for human benefit; Rolex Award for Enterprise, 1982; Order of Australia Medal (OAM), 2001, For the success of introduced dung beetles in Australia; Emeritus Fellow, Entomology, CSIRO, 2006; and Australian Geographic Conservationist of the Year, 2008. Of the numerous species of dung and other beetles which Dr Bornemissza discovered, two of his favourites are Scarabaeus bornemisszai and Sisyphus bornemisszanus.
Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, Emeritus Professor of Meteorology at Flinders University (the first such Chair in Australia), was the foundation President of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (1983 – 2009) and has had a long and distinguished career in Australian science. He was Professor of Meteorology at Flinders University (1971-1999), co-founder of and presently Senior Advisor to Airborne Research Australia (1999- present), founding Director of the Flinders Institute for Atmospheric and Marine Sciences and was Chairman of Country Fire Services Board of South Australia (1977-84). He was a member of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Advisory Board (2002 – 6), the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee (2003-9), and was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1988. Prof. Schwerdtfeger received the Max Planck Research Prize in 1991 for work at the University of Bonn, Germany, and the Australian Centenary Medal in 2002. His interests include airborne and boundary layer meteorology; solar and atmospheric radiation; the use of aircraft in atmospheric science and remote sensing; regional climatology; glaciology, particularly sea-ice and icebergs; environment and land-use, remote sensing imagery and GIS
He is the author and co-author of several books, including:
Dynamic Meteorology – A Basic Course, Gordon, A., W. Grace, P. Schwerdtfeger and R. Byron-Scott (Arnold 1998)
Physical principles of micrometeorology, P. Schwerdtfeger (Elsevier, 1976)
Further information, including a list of publications since 1991, can be found at: www.airborneresearch.com.au/peter_schwerdtfeger.htm
Professor Elspeth McLachlan is a distinguished neuroscientist, particularly in the field of autonomic physiology. Professor McLachlan has published almost 150 scientific papers which have been cited over 5,000 times. She has held numerous grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the AustralianResearch Council and other funding bodies and has been a plenary lecturer at the Australian Physiological and Pharmacological Society, the Australian Society for Medical Research, the Australian Neuroscience Society, the American Autonomic Society and the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience. In 1993 she was awarded the Max-Planck-Forschungspreis for international collaborative research (with Professor Wilfred Jänig of the University of Kiel) and has been a strong supporter of the AAvHF since this time. In 1997 she was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and her other recognitions include the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research (1998), the Centenary Medal for contribution to the Australian Community and Science in Medical Research (2003), the Distinguished Achievement Award by the Australian Neuroscience Society (2006) and Honorary Life Membership of the Australian Physiological Society in 2008. During her career Professor McLachlan held Chairs in several prominent Australian Universities, but also supported the research community as the Executive Head for Research Management at the NationalHealth and Medical Research Council (1999-2001) and as Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of New South Wales (2001 to 2004). From 1993 until her retirement in late 2009, Professor McLachlan has been based at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Sydney where she was an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow until 1999 and more recently Co-Director of the Spinal Injuries Research Centre and Emeritus Professor (University of New South Wales).
Mary Angela MILLER was born in Beechworth, Victoria on November 26, 1904 to Henry and Emily Gerraty. Her primary school education was with the Presentation Sisters in Chiltern and was followed by secondary schooling at the Brigidine Convent in Beechworth. Her academic potential was quickly recognized by the Brigidine Sisters and in 1917 at age 13 she was introduced to Professor Augustin Lodewyckx. It was a highly significant encounter, leading to a close friendship, and honorary membership of the Lodewyckx family. Their daughter Dymphna, who later married Manning Clark, became one of her best friends. After achieving her Leaving Certificate in 1923, she enrolled in a University of Melbourne Bachelor of Arts degree, assisted by a scholarship to St Marys College. Her German classes were with Professor Lodewyckx, and in 1927 she graduated with honours, majoring in German and English.
Jobs were hard to come by and following periods of employment as a journalist, housekeeper and then business assistant to Mr Harry Miller, Angela applied successfully for a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Scholarship, with the support of Professor Lodewyckx. This two-year scholarship in Munich commenced in 1930.
While at Munich University Angela took lectures with Dr Vossler (Romance Language), Dr Kutcher (Romance Theatre) and Professor Pinder (Romance Art) and established lifelong friendships with fellow students.
However, after 18 months in Munich, Angela returned to Melbourne and married Mr Harry Miller on December 10, 1931. Following the birth of her daughter, Rosalind, in 1934, she focused mainly on domestic responsibilities. She returned to the University of Melbourne in 1943 to study Dutch under Professor Lodewyckx and in 1946 a Graduate Diploma of Education. Her teaching career began that year, and included periods at Ruyton Girls School, Waverley High School, Canterbury Girls High, Kilmaire College, and then, from 1960 to her retirement in 1969, Balwyn High School.
Angela was an amazing teacher, who had an innate ability to hold her class, and was highly regarded as a teacher of German language and culture. She had a profound influence on many people, both through her teaching skills, and by nurturing and mentoring so many whom she welcomed into her home. She made many active long-lasting friendships as a result.
Following the formation of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows, she became a regular participant in the activities of the Association in Victoria.
(Mr Michael Whishaw is acknowledged for much of this text which is extracted from his Eulogy to Angela Miller, presented at her funeral in Balwyn, Victoria, on July 19, 2006 and for the accompanying image.)