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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.

Harry Messel

Louis Kahan

fibre-tipped pen and pen and ink on paper (sheet: 56 cm x 38 cm)

Harry Messel AC CBE (b. 1922), scientist and academic, was born in Canada and gained his qualifications there and in Scotland and Ireland. He came to Australia after the war, and taught for two years at Adelaide University. In 1952, aged just 29, he was appointed to the University of Sydney as Professor and Head of the School of Physics. Over the unprecedented 35 years that Messel ran the School it developed into one of the world's leading university physics departments. To support its research Messel established the first university foundation in the British Commonwealth, the Nuclear Research Foundation, through which he raised enormous sums. A high-profile intellectual, he advised on government policy, pioneered the introduction of computers in Australia, contributed substantially to high school science education through his widely-used science textbook and encouraged students to pursue careers in science through his International Science Schools. After his retirement from the university in 1987 Messel served on the World Conservation Union, heading its Crocodile Specialist Group from 1989 to 2004. He served on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission from 1975 to 1981, and was Chancellor of Bond University from 1992 to 1997.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Mrs Lily Kahan 2017
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2017.76

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Louis Kahan

Harry Messel AC CBE

Donated by

Lily Kahan (52 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan

A guy from Paris

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2018

Sarah Engledow on a foundational gallery figure who was quick on the draw.

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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.