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Albert, Adrien (1907–1989)

by Des Brown

Adrien Albert was born in 1907 and died on 29 December 1989 after a short illness. He was educated at the Scots College, Rose Bay, and at the University of Sydney where he graduated in pharmacy and later in science with first class honours and University Medal in 1932.

He proceeded to the PhD at London (1937) and the DSc (1947). Meanwhile he held teaching positions at the University of Sydney (1938-1947) and acted as advisor on medical chemistry to the Australian Army (1942-1947). During this period, his classical studies on the anti-microbial activity of aminoacridines and hydroxyquinolines led to our present understanding of the crucial part played by physical properties in determining the activity of drugs.

In 1948, Albert was invited to the Foundation Chair of Medical Chemistry within the newly established John Curtin School of Medical Research, a post he occupied with distinction until 1972. On retirement he continued research and writing from the Research School of Chemistry and later from the Department of Chemistry; he also held a Visiting Professorship at the State University of New York for several periods.

Albert will be remembered for his outstanding research contributions to Heterocyclic Chemistry (1968), Ionization Constants (1984) and The Acridines (1966); also for his seminal thinking and writings on how drugs act, as expounded in no less than seven editions of Selective Toxicity (1953-1985), books which became essential reading for generations of medicinal chemists and pharmacologists throughout the world. His last book, Xenobiosis (1987) is considered a masterpiece by life scientists and intellectual laymen alike.

Many honours were accorded to Albert. The more recent of these were the Order of Australia (1989), the Olle Literary Prize of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (1989), and a posthumous Doctorate of Science honoris causa by the University of Sydney (1990). Albert was a kindly and thoughtful man, a stimulating conversationalist and a logical thinker whose head always ruled his emotions.

Original publication

Citation details

Des Brown, 'Albert, Adrien (1907–1989)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 7 August 2020.

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