White, David Ogilvie

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MB BS 1954 MSc 1965 MD 1971 PhD (ANU)

David Ogilvie White pioneered the field of Virology to the University of Melbourne.

David was born in Canberra in 1931 and studied at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1954. He completed his PhD at the Australian National University in 1958 on the influenza virus, which was to become the focus of his research throughout his career.

He became a Lecturer in Microbiology at the University of Melbourne, introducing the field of virology to that Department.[1] David remained at the University of Melbourne being appointed Professor of Microbiology in 1967; Assistant Dean to the Faculty of Medicine in 1971; Dean of the Research and Graduate Studies in 1974; and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Councillor of the University from 1975 to 1978. He was Chairman of the Professorial Board from 1977 to 1978, and Chairman of the Academic Board in 1978 and 1979.

David developed a strong international reputation and was offered fellowships at the US National Institute of Health, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the University of Cambridge, and the University of London. He received an MD from the University of Sydney in 1971.

David was involved in many national and international committees, including as Foundation President of the Cell Biology Society of Australia and as a Foundation Member of the Commonwealth AIDS Research Grants Committee.[1] He was President of the Australian Society for Microbiology for two years from 1988, overseeing the establishment of the Society’s National Office during this time. In 1989, he was made a Fellow of the Australian Society of Microbiology and Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in Australia.

His colleagues Roy Robins Browne and Michael Studdert discuss the contributions to virology he made throughout his career:

White made major contributions toward elucidating the molecular biology and immunology of influenza virus. In one of several overseas appointments, he was Damon Runyon Fellow in Cancer Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York in 1965 and 1966, where with MD Scharff and JV Maizel, he published a series of papers characterizing the polypeptides of human adenovirus using the then novel method of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. With his students in Melbourne between 1969 and 1973 he published a series of papers characterizing the polypeptides of influenza virus. Between 1975 and 1995, the major focus of his group, that included postdoctoral fellows Margot Anders, David Jackson and Lorena Brown, turned to defining the nature and diversity of major histocompatibility complex, class II restricted T cell epitopes of the influenza virus hemagglutinin utilising a range of technologies including T cell cloning and synthetic peptides and monoclonal antibodies. In addition, studies were undertaken using anti-idiotypic antibodies. There were also papers published on herpes simplex virus, papilloma virus, paramyxoviruses and Kunjim Flavivirus. Antiviral chemotherapy was a major interest and the subject of a number of original and review publications.[1]

David collaborated with students and colleagues to publish more than 100 original research papers and was the author of six major books on virology, including Medical Virology with Frank Fenner, a text translated into five languages and used in medical schools across the globe.[1] He was an editor of the international journal, Archives of Virology, and served on the editorial boards of a number of other journals.

In 1992, David was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for “service to education, particularly in the field of microbiology”.[1] His dedication to undergraduate teaching has been recognised by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Society of Microbiology, both of which have established an annual Excellence in Teaching Award in his honour.

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Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) White, David Ogilvie. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.