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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.

Dame Jean Macnamara, c. 1930

Donovan

gelatin silver photograph on paper

Dame Jean Macnamara DBE (1899-1968), medical doctor and scientist, was involved in crucial research into poliomyelitis during the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Beechworth, Victoria, she studied Medicine at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1922. The following year, she was appointed resident medical officer at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, and hereafter began to specialise in the treatment of polio. Awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Travelling Scholarship, between 1931 and 1933 she studied in the USA, Canada and England. Returning to Melbourne, she worked at the Children's Hospital and at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Her work with Frank Macfarlane Burnet led to the identification of multiple strains of the polio virus and proved pivotal in the development of the Salk vaccine. She was honorary medical officer to the physiotherapy department of the Royal Children's Hospital from 1928 to 1951, and for her work with children she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1935. From the early 1930s, Macnamara campaigned for the introduction to Australia of the myxoma virus. In the face of commercial opposition, she maintained that if the country was to be left with any topsoil, the rabbit must be eradicated. Myxomatosis struck in the late 1950, and a year late rabbit numbers were so reduced that the national wool cheque was said to have increased by £30 million. In 1966, Macnamara became the first woman awarded an honarary Doctorate of Laws by Melbourne University.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Merran Samuel (nee Connor) 2004
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2004.164

Currently not on display

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Donovan

Dame Jean MacNamara (age 31 in 1930)

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Jessie Street, 1929 Jerrold Nathan
Jessie Street, 1929 Jerrold Nathan
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First Ladies profiles women who have achieved noteworthy firsts over the past 100 years.

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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.