Frank Fenner was one of the most important scientists I have ever interviewed. His contribution to global happiness was immense. By the time I got a comment from him on an article I was writing he was roughly 90, but still sharp and well abreast of developments both in his own field of viorlogy, and with the environmental science to which he devoted his retirement.
As is such a running theme of this blog, he never got anything like the attention he deserved. I lived for a year at Fenner Hall, in Canberra when I was 26. When I moved in I had to be told who he was, and I doubt most of the residents ever knew. I don’t think this bothered him much, but it’s symptomatic of the neglect that drags Australian science down. To this end I was pleased to be able to get a bit more attention to Fenner, and the causes he championed in this article in Crikey.
PS I didn’t write the title, and I think its a bit over the top. Not so much I’d take it as irony, but I think the prize of greatest public health achiever of all time probably goes to Edward Jenner, who invented the technology Fenner put to us. Fenner headed up the most significnat public health team of all time, but he was just first among equals in that capacity.