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Elizabeth Blackburn
, 2011

by Hugh Hamilton

inkjet print (sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.3 cm, image: 37.6 cm x 28.3 cm)

Elizabeth Blackburn AC (b. 1948) shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009. Born in Hobart, she gained her master's degree from the University of Melbourne before heading to Cambridge in the early 1970s, then to Yale in 1975. She joined the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of California in Berkeley in 1978. At a conference in 1980, she announced her discovery of a repeated DNA sequence at the ends of chromosomes of a single-celled organism. Since then she has unravelled the mystery of the telomere, a protective structure or 'cap' at the end of the chromosome. As organisms age, the telomeres fray and degrade, like the aglets on shoelaces. In 1984 she and Carol Greider, who had been her doctoral student, confirmed the existence of an enzyme, telomerase, which replenishes the telomere. Blackburn moved to the University of California San Francisco in 1990. In 2001 she was appointed to the President's Council on Bioethics, but after criticising the stance of the Bush administration on embryonic stem cell science she was controversially dropped. President of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2010, she has received the Heineken Prize, the Lasker Award and the L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science as well as the Nobel Prize.

Hugh Hamilton (b. 1957) is an Australian-born Los Angeles- based photographer. Amongst his scores of portrait subjects are many Australians. He photographed Blackburn in a boardroom at Microsoft's Mountain View campus.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2011
Accession number: 2011.58