Historical Records of Australian Science Historical Records of Australian Science Society
The history of science, pure and applied, in Australia, New Zealand and the southwest Pacific

Thorburn Brailsford Robertson: Brilliant Scientist, Innovator and Australia’s First Professor of Biochemistry

George E. Rogers
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Cellular and Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. Email: george.rogers@adelaide.edu.au

Historical Records of Australian Science 28(2) 99-110 https://doi.org/10.1071/HR17002
Published: 31 August 2017


Thorburn Brailsford Robertson (1884–1930) was educated in Adelaide and held appointments at the University of California, Berkeley (where he completed his PhD in 1907), and the University of Toronto before taking up his appointment at Adelaide in 1919 as Australia’s first Professor of Biochemistry. In his research on the biochemical basis of growth and senescence he discovered in pituitary tissue a growth factor he called Tethelin. He made important contributions to the fabric and collegiality of the University of Adelaide. Amongst his many scientific contributions he was the first person outside Canada to prepare insulin, a project taken up by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. In 1927 he became the first Chief of the Division of Animal Nutrition in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for whom he investigated sheep nutrition and wool growth.

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