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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 Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

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

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Nick Sinclair (age 30 in 1993)

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

Subject professions

Science and technology

Related portraits

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Lee Kernaghan near Broken Hill
Lee Kernaghan near Broken Hill
Lee Kernaghan near Broken Hill
Lee Kernaghan near Broken Hill

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The Australian of the Year Awards have often provoked controversy about who is selected and whether their achievements are remarkable.

Professor Peter Doherty
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Previous exhibition, 2003

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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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