1960 (AD)
Original medal issued by Karolinska Institute
Artist: Erik Lindberg
Awarded to: Macfarlane Burnet - Australian Nobel Laureate in Medicine, 1960
Macfarlane Burnet received the Nobel Prize in 1960 for his contribution to the theory of acquired immunological tolerance. This work paved the way for successful human organ transplantation.
Burnet avidly collected and studied beetles - a passion that started in boyhood. He didn't become an entomologist, preferring to study other types of bugs, and became a leader in virology and immunology.
Burnet was the most awarded and honoured Australian at the time of his death. Unlike other Nobel prize winners who pursued their careers overseas he lived and worked here in Australia. He was born in Traralgon, Victoria, and worked within the University of Melbourne and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
Burnet was ahead of his time in the 1960s and spoke out publicly about many issues. He was anti-uranium mining and he warned of the dangers of smoking and cancer. He also had strong views on overpopulation and supported organ transplantation.
Burnet perfected a technique to grow viruses in eggs. It is still used today.

Physical Description

Medal cast in gold-coloured metal.

Obverse Description

The figures represent the Genius of Medicine holding an open book in her lap, collecting water pouring out of a rock in a bowl to quench a sick girl's thirst. Text around: 'INVENTAS VITAM IUVAT EXCOLUISSE PER ARTES'. This passage is taken from Virgil's Aenieid and means 'And they who bettered life on earth by new-found mastery'. 'REG UNIVERSITAS MED. -CHIR. CAROL'. This stands for the Karolinska Institute that awards the prize in medicine or physiology. In plaque at bottom: 'SIR MACFARLANE BURNET / MCMLX'. Artist's name: 'E. LINDBERG'.

Reverse Description

Bust of Alfred Nobel; reads 'ALFR. NOBEL / NAT. / MDCCC / XXXIII OB. / MDCCC / XCVI. Artists name E. LINDBERG 1902'.


These replicas of the Nobel Prizes won in medicine by Sir John Eccles, Professor Peter Doherty, and Sir Macfarlane Burnet signify Australian expertise in the field of international medical research. They were commissioned by MV in 2000 for inclusion in the Medical Melbourne exhibition and were on display for several years (2000-2005).

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