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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Professor Geoffrey Burnstock

1971
Andrew Sibley

brush and ink, gouache on paper (sheet: 57.0 cm x 42.2 cm)

Geoffrey Burnstock AC (1929–2020), neuroscientist, played a key role in the discovery of the molecule ATP as neurotransmitter. This research led to the drug clopidogrel, marketed since 1997, which is used against stroke and thrombosis. Unable to get into medical school, Burnstock obtained a PhD in Zoology at the University of London in 1957 before working at the medical institute at Mill Hill, and at Oxford and Illinois universities. After meeting his New Zealand-born wife, he accepted a position as senior lecturer in Zoology at the University of Melbourne in 1959, becoming Professor of Zoology from 1964 to 1975. During his time in Australia, he made his discoveries about the role of ATP in neurotransmission, with important implications for the treatment of conditions including cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's. Burnstock returned to London in 1975, where he was head of the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at University College London, and from 1997, Director of the Autonomic Neuroscience Institute at the Royal Free Hospital. After moving back to Australia in 2017, he was an honorary professor at the University of Melbourne.

Portraiture was an essential part of Andrew Sibley's art practice. Despite the apparent spontaneity of this portrait, Sibley has captured Burnstock, with his distinctive eyebrows and goatee, using precise lines and a refined use of ink and gouache.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Andrew Sibley/Copyright Agency, 2021

Artist and subject

Andrew Sibley (age 38 in 1971)

Geoffrey Burnstock AC (age 42 in 1971)

Donated by

Andrew Sibley (16 portraits)

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency