In Memoriam Gordon Ada

October 12, 2012

It is with great sadness that we record the death of Gordon Leslie Ada on Tuesday the 25th of September. Gordon was born on the 6th December 1922. He was educated at Sydney University, gaining a BSc (1943), an MSc (1946) and subsequently a DSc in 1959. He spent some time in London at the National Institute for Medical Research, and was in 1948 specifically recruited by Frank MacFarlane Burnet to start the Unit of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), working initially on influenza virus.

gordonadaWhen the focus of the Institute turned to Immunology, Gordon conducted a number of crucial experiments that helped confirm the clonal selection theory (including the ‘hot-antigen suicide’ experiment, which showed that if you eradicated naïve B cell clones in a mixed B cell population using I125-labelled antigen, which lethally irradiated the B cells specific for the antigen by the proximity of the label, you could no longer induce antibody to that antigen, but clones in the remaining population retained the capacity to make antibody for a third party antigen) and in a series of papers with Gus Nossal defined antigen fate following immunisation, including a description of follicular dendritic cells.
Gordon was recruited from the WEHI by Frank Fenner to head the microbiology department at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) in 1968. His express aim was to combine virology and immunology, which led him ultimately to put together two young scientists to work on immune recognition of viruses. Doherty and Zinkernagel were, of course, spectacularly successful, discovering MHC restriction for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996. During the later years at JCSMR, Gordon’s interests became more focussed on issues of international health, leading to work with the WHO and a period at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, of which he was Associate Director and Director from 1988-1991. Although Gordon formally retired from JCSMR in 1987, he was appointed a Visiting Fellow in Immunology on return and chairman of the Australian HIV Vaccine Working group, a position he held for several years.

While we extend our sympathy to Gordon’s family at this very sad time, we might also look with a sense of admiration of a life spent in pursuit of and achieving scientific excellence, of answering basic questions and of fostering several of the brightest minds in contemporary immunology. Gordon Ada was one of the founders of Australian biomedical research and he will be greatly missed.
A memorial segment will be organised at the Australasian Society for Immunology Annual Meeting in Melbourne, Australia, in December, 2012, which would have coincided with Gordon’s 90th birthday.

Vale Gordon.

Dave Tarlinton, President Australasian Society for Immunology,
Geeta Chaudhri,
Nicholas King.

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