Gustav Nossal

Most Popular

Bad Ischl, Austria
Birth Sign
Bad Ischl, Austria

Gustav Nossal is one of the most renowned scientists and research biologists in Australia. As a pioneering researcher, he is internationally famous for his contributions to the fields of antibody production and immunological tolerance. Born in Austria of Jewish descent but with Roman Catholic baptism, he migrated to Australia with his family when he was just eight years old. Nossal has aspired to be a doctor and researcher since he was a child. He studied accordingly and graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in medicine and science. He then relocated to Melbourne, where he worked under Sir Macfarlane Burnet’s mentorship and quickly assumed the latter’s role as Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall of the Institute of Medical Research, a position he held for 31 years, from 1965 to 1996. During this time period, he established the ground-breaking discovery of the ‘one cell, one antibody’ rule. Nossal has made significant contributions to medical science and research over the years and has been recognized with various notable accolades and awards.

Childhood & Adolescence

Gustav Nossal was born Gustav Victor Joseph Nossal in Bad Ischl, Austria on June 4, 1931.
Due to his paternal genealogy, the Nossal family faced danger during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Austria, notwithstanding young Nossal’s Roman Catholic baptism. In order to avoid danger, the family relocated to Australia in 1939.

He entered St Aloysius’ College after completing his primary education. Interestingly, despite his lack of English proficiency, he graduated from the same institution as the College’s dux in 1947.
He was admitted to the Sydney Medical School the following year and graduated with first-class honors in 1953 with a BSc in Medicine and a Bachelor in Surgery.

Gustav Nossal’s Career

After completing his education, he accepted a position at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital but did not stay long. In 1957, he relocated to Melbourne and began working with Macfarlane Burnet at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne in 1960.

Meanwhile, from 1959 to 1961, he worked at Stanford University as an Assistant Professor of Genetics before returning to Australia to work with Burnet.

He assumed the latter role following Burnet’s retirement in 1965 and remained as Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research until 1996. However, this was not his only profile. He also held the position of a biology professor at the University of Melbourne.

He worked for a year at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1968 and then as a Special Consultant to the World Health Organization in 1976.

During his tenure as Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, he not only expanded and diversified the institute’s research activities but also built on his mentor’s work, providing the groundwork for contemporary immunology.

He spent his entire life conducting studies on various aspects of immunology or nature’s defenses. His primary research is elucidating how the body produces the priceless antibody molecules that aid an individual in remaining infection-free.

The discovery of the ‘one cell-one antibody’ rule was the crowning opus of his research. Each B cell produced in the bone marrow secretes a distinct antibody in response to an interaction with a specific foreign antigen, according to this rule.

His contributions to fundamental immunology and related topics are mostly covered in his 530 scientific publications and five books during the course of his career. These include ‘Antibodies and Immunity’ published in 1968, ‘Antigens, Lymphoid Cells, and the Immune Response’ published in 1971, ‘Medical Science and Human Goals’ published in 1975, ‘Nature’s Defenses’ published in 1978, and ‘Reshaping Life: Critical Issues in Genetic Engineering’ published in 1984.

From 1986 to 1989, he served as President of the International Union of Immunological Societies, and from 1994 to 1998, he served as President of the Australian Academy of Science. Meanwhile, he served on the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering, and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) from 1989 to 1998 and as Chairman of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation from 1987 to 1996.

He chaired the group charged with managing the World Health Organization’s Global Program for Vaccines and Immunization from 1993 to 2002. Additionally, he chaired the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Children’s Vaccine Program’s Strategic Advisory Council from 1998 to 2003.

He served as Deputy Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation for two years, from 1998 to 2000, and currently serves as Chairman of the Global Foundation’s Advisory Committee. Additionally, he is a member of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria’s Patrons Council and the Health Impact Fund’s Advisory Board.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 1970, he was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his considerable contributions to medical research and science.
He was knighted seven years later, in 1977, for his ground-breaking work in the field of immunology.
He was awarded the ANZAAS medal in 1982.

In 1989, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for his contributions to research, medicine, and science.
In 1990, he received the prestigious Albert Einstein World Award for Science.

In 1996, he was awarded the Koch Gold Medal. Typically, the honor is granted to scientists and researchers who make significant contributions to biomedical sciences, particularly microbiology and immunology.
In 1997, he was identified and listed as one of Australia’s Living National Treasures, a group of 100 Australians. He was named Australian of the Year three years later.

In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for his research on antibody production and immunological tolerance. His photograph was featured on an Australian postage stamp the following year.

In 2006, he was inducted into the Monash University Golden Key Society as an honorary member. He was later given the inaugural Monash Medal as an Outstanding Australian for his contributions to medical science and research four years later. In 2012, he was presented with the Monash University Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

Personal History and Legacy

He married Lyn while he was working at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Apart from his study and scientific discovery, he has been highly involved in philanthropic activity over the years and is a patron of a number of organizations.

Numerous scientific and educational institutes have been named in his honor, including The Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne and The Nossal High School on Monash University’s Berwick campus.

Estimated Net worth

Net Worth Estimated in 2019: $100K-$1M (Approx.)


This Australian researcher and scientist born in Austria made the ground-breaking discovery of the ‘one-cell, one antibody’ rule in the field of immunology.