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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.

Sir John Cornforth, 1993 (printed 2003)

Nick Sinclair

bromide print on photographic paper (sheet: 50.5 cm x 40.6 cm, image: 31.3 cm x 31.3 cm)

Sir John Warcup Cornforth AC CBE (b. 1917) won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975 for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions. Born in Sydney, Cornforth attended Sydney Boys' High School, but over the course of his teenage years he became progressively deaf from otosclerosis. He left Sydney University with the University Medal in 1937 without ever having heard a university lecture. After postgraduate research in Sydney, Cornforth took up a scholarship to Oxford to work with Robert Robinson. Turning from his work on steroid synthesis, Cornforth worked with Robinson on the chemistry of penicillin; later they co-wrote The Chemistry of Penicillin (1949). After the war, they collaborated on chemically synthesising cholesterol, then Cornforth turned to the biosynthesis of cholesterol from acetic acid. Accepting the Nobel Prize, he said that 'it must be rare to be rewarded so generously for work that was so purely a pleasure in planning and execution.' Cornforth was Australian of the Year in 1975. It was one of the four years in which the Canberra Australia Day Council also recognised an Australian of the Year; Major General Alan Stretton was his fellow office-bearer.

Australian of the Year 1975

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2004
© Nick Sinclair

Accession number: 2004.5

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Nick Sinclair (age 30 in 1993)

Sir John Cornforth AC CBE FRS (age 76 in 1993)

Subject professions

Science and technology

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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.

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This unique exhibition will give an insight into the private lives, pursuits and work of all the Nobel laureates associated with Australia

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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.