Adrien Albert (1907-1989)

From Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 1990, 11, 142

Adrien Albert, who pioneered medicinal chemistry in Australia, died in Canberra on 29 December 1989, aged 82, after a short illness. His classic studies on the antimicrobial activity of aminoacridines in the 1940s led to the development of the bacteriostatic agent, 9-aminoacridine and represented a breakthrough in understanding the importance of physical properties in governing drug action. His major book, Selective Toxicity, first appeared in 1953 and is now in its seventh edition (1985). This book introduced the now familiar concept of selective toxicity to pharmacology and toxicology, and is still a recommended text in many student courses worldwide. His last book, Xenobiosis: Foods, Drugs and Poisons in the Human Body, published in 1987 is also of importance to pharmacologists and toxicologists, presenting a most readable and fascinating overview of the different dietary and toxicological problems that confront the human race. He also wrote important books on more purely chemical topics, including [[b||Ionization Constants, Heterocyclic Chemistry[[, and The Acridines, and was the author of more than 200 research papers mostly in medicinal chemistry.

Adrien Albert was educated at the University of Sydney, graduating BSc with first class honours and the University Medal in 1932. At the University of London he gained his PhD in 1937 and DSc in 1947. He served on the teaching and research staff of the University of Sydney (1938-1947), acted as advisor to the Medical Directorate of the Australian Army (1942-1947) and worked at the Wellcome Research Institute in London (1947-1948). In 1948 he was appointed the Foundation Professor of Medical Chemistry in the newly established John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra. He established the Department of Medical Chemistry in Canberra and built up a research unit of major significance in the area of the design and synthesis of heterocyclic compounds of biological importance. He officially retired from this post in 1972 but remained very active in research, teaching and writing. He held visiting posts at the Research School of Chemistry and the Department of Chemistry at the Australian National University in Canberra, and at the Department of Pharmacological Sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Albert received numerous awards throughout his distinguished career, including the Smissman Prize of the American Chemical Society and the Olle Prize of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. He was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1958.

He was Patron of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Division of Medicinal and Agricultural Chemistry, which named its most distinguished lectureship The Adrien Albert Lectureship. In 1989, Adrien Albert was made an Officer of the Order of Australia by the Queen for his contributions to medical research. An honorary DSc will be awarded posthumously by the University of Sydney in 1990.

Albert's remarkable scientific career, begun in 1934, continued right up to his death. He was an inveterate traveller and a skilled pianist. His funeral in Canberra was attended by a large number of Australia's most distinguished scientists, many friends and colleagues.