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Sir John Carew Eccles AC FRS

1903 – 1997

Sir John Carew Eccles AC FRS FAA (1903-1997), neuroscientist, won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1963 for his discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane. Graduating brilliantly with a Rhodes scholarship from Melbourne University, where he had proved himself a star athlete, he worked at Oxford from 1925 to 1935, when he returned to Sydney's Kanematsu Institute. In 1944 he moved to the University of Otago as Professor of Physiology, to conduct pioneering experiments into synaptic transmission in the central nervous system. In 1952 he took up the Foundation Chair of Physiology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. In Canberra, with numerous colleagues, he carried out the research that culminated in his sharing the Nobel Prize with AF Huxley and AL Hodgkin. In the decade from 1951 he was a Foundation Fellow and second President of the Australian Academy of Science; the Academy's distinctive building opened during his Presidency in 1959, the year after he was knighted. Eccles left his wife and nine children in Canberra in 1966 to pursue the last seven years of his career in the USA. Remarried, he retired to Switzerland, and continued to write almost up until his death at the age of 94. In total he had 568 publications to his name, including 19 books of which he was the sole author of 12. Nearly a fifth of his publications dealt with the relationship between the mind and the brain.

Updated 2018