Science & Technology

"An attribute as a scientist which could be classified as a leadership value, is that of persistence. We are very used to solving away at a problem that does not yield easily. We often have to try different approaches to the same problem, to reformulate the question, to refine the experimental conditions. Persistence and patience in pursuing the goal is important."


"All science is based on disclosure of sufficient information for the work to be verified independently by other scientists in other laboratories, there can be no other mindset but total honesty. I think this honesty is a quality which is essential for others to follow you willingly and enthusiastically."


"In a world where it is so easy to neglect, deny, corrupt and suppress the truth, the scientist may find his discipline severe. For him, truth is so seldom the sudden light that shows new order and beauty; more often, truth is the uncharted rock that sinks his ship in the dark. He respects all the more those who can accept that condition; and in returning thanks tonight we are saluting all those who make our load lighter by sharing it."

SIR JOHN, COMFORTH - on accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"Scientists have to doubt everything. They are the only people who thrive on being doubters... The business of scientists is not to believe, but to test, to check and challenge theories, including their own... it's very uncomfortable fro most people to live in a world of perpetual uncertainty, but for scientists, it is fundamental."

SIR JOHN, COMFORTH - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"If we are citizens of anything, we are citizens of the earth."

SIR JOHN, COMFORTH - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"It was one of those special places of science where people were really passionate about their work and they were asking big questions and competing with the best in the world. "

SUZANNE, CORY - on choosing to work at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1971

"I think what drives scientists is this tremendous intellectual adventure - pushing the boundaries of knowledge, walking down a track that nobody has walked down before, not knowing what's around the corner and then seeing a landscape that is so extraordinarily beautiful and complex, being part of the community that is driving the boundaries of knowledge and giving us insight into the amazing process of life. "


"It's the excitement of being on the frontier. "

SUZANNE, CORY - on scientific discovery

"Australians will, in the main, resist being told what to think by anyone called an expert, but they will take note of thoughtfully presented evidence-based opinion."

PROFESSOR PETER, DOHERTY - The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize

"Today, about two-thirds of men over sixty-five in Australia are no longer at work. Many of these have been retired when they were still very valuable with their skills, wisdom and knowledge... the aim of society should be to introduce more flexibility in the whole question."

SIR JOHN, ECCLES - addressing the Australian Association of Gerontology, 1966

"If we keep faith with science, and thinking things through, and keeping ourselves alert, we will find new things, and new solutions. As humans, we do find answers to problems. Some things are harder than others. But that just means you have to work harder."


"Scientists do have an incredible awe about the world. Science to them isn't just pulling the world apart and putting it into dry elements and thinking nothing of it. If you're a passionate scientist, you're in awe not only of the beauty of the world, but the way it all hangs together. So I actually find science is a really life-enhancing thing."


"A steel wheel on a steel rail has one seventh of the friction of a rubber tyred wheel on a bitumen surface. "


"We can only call ourselves Australian if we have a long-term future in this country and that means to live sustainably."

TIM, FLANNERY - at his Australian of the Year Presentation 2007

"Fifty years ago Australia rode on the sheep's back and wool was worth a pound a pound and no one could think beyond that, could they? No one could have imagined this wonderful new economy that we've grown based on other resources. And the same is going to be true for coal, we will make the transition into a new economy and we will be better off..."

TIM, FLANNERY - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"I do feel that the honour comes with a deep obligation, for it speaks eloquently of the desire of Australians to address climate change. We are, on a per capita basis, the worst greenhouse polluters in the world and I don't think any of us want our children asking in future why we didn't give our utmost when it was still possible to influence the course of events."

TIM, FLANNERY - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"Well, to me science is nothing mysterious. It's the world that we live in and it's trying to understand the world we live in, and we can comprehend it in relatively simple terms and pass on that wonder and interest in this fantastic world we all live in very easily I think."


"It looks like a miracle. This is the sort of thing that only happens to you once in a lifetime. "

LORD HOWARD, FLOREY - upon seeing that mice infected with virulent streptococci survived when treated with penicillin

"For in the last analysis it is ideas that count."


"It's a marvellous honour, especially as I follow in the footsteps of distinguished medical scientists who are recent Australians of the Year, including Professor Peter Doherty, Sir Gus Nossal and Professor Fiona Wood. Gus, Fiona and I all chose to be Australians and to make this country the cradle of research that aims to improve the lives of millions of people..."

IAN, FRAZER - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"I've always felt that what I do in life should be good for the community. I think that's the measure of being an Australian citizen. It's not so much where you're born, it's what you're actually doing beyond what people expect of you."

IAN, FRAZER - in his Australian of the Year 2006 acceptance speech

"A difference between civilisation and anarchy is above all the capacity of a society to find a basis for efficient collective action when it is necessary to solve a problem of great consequence.


"It is the Australians that walked, rode, drove bullock drays, buggies and motor cars that are really interested in the evolution of the flying machine and who will see the thing through and keep it up to date. But with politicians or squatters I do not see how I can ever be anything but a circumstance."

LAWRENCE, HARGRAVE - on the development of the flying machine

"The people of Sydney who can speak of my work without a smile are very scarce."

LAWRENCE, HARGRAVE - Scientists in Nineteenth Century Australia, A. Mozley Moyal

"My objective is and has been for years to make the lightest and most compact flying machine that would carry me at 25 or 30 miles per hour for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour. Current events show this is not at all an ambitious project. Want of an elementary knowledge of oil machines baulks me and causes much misdirected effort. I doubt my ability to acquire that knowledge, and feel like a fireman trying to hew out a donkey pump..."

LAWRENCE, HARGRAVE - on the development of the flying machine

"No matter how many times I witness the miracle of someone having their sight restored, I'm still overwhelmed with emotion. When the eye patch comes off just 24 hours after surgery and you see that smile light up the room, you are witnessing a life being transformed."

GABI, HOLLOWS - on the gift of sight

"Our vision is for a world where no one is needlessly blind, and Indigenous Australians enjoy the same health and life expectancy as other Australians."

FRED, HOLLOWS - credo of The Fred Hollows Foundation

"I have been lucky in that I've been alive at times when the things that I wanted to do were capable of being done. "


"The unexplored life is not worth living. Each time a second goes past, you'll never get that second back again. "


"I am really passionate about science - and I think it is because science gives you a little bit of sanity; it tells you something that's fairly close to being absolute total and undeniable truth, rather than opinions. And from that truth you can make opinions rather than going the other way round. "


"The idea of man as the dominant mammal of the earth whose whole behaviour tends to be dominated by his own desire for dominance gripped me. It seemed to explain almost everything, and I applied it to everything. "


"It has been an unexpected and huge honour which I truly think could have just as easily gone to any one of so many other Australians... It has been a serendipitous event but a wonderful gift which I am trying to share and leverage for the benefit of all of us affected by mental ill health."

PROFESSOR PATRICK, McGORRY - Australian of the Year Presentation, 2010

"The motivations of a scientist are always mixed and complex... every medical student has the desire to do good in the world. Making a small contribution to that effort is really in a sense the last significant thing that I want to do with my life. "

SIR GUSTAV, NOSSAL - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"I am most proud about the science I've done with my own two hands because I have always thought that even if your life path takes you into a leadership position outside the area you were known for, your legitimacy remains in that first field."


"I did a lot of good work for the rest of the forty years... science is an incremental thing. Everything builds on everything else, it's a pattern, it's a mosaic."

SIR GUSTAV, NOSSAL - on his retirement in 1996

"The thrill of medical research is amazing. Prising out of nature her jealously guarded secrets combines with the humanitarian goal of better health to provide powerful twin motivations. The challenge of competing with the world's best is fantastic. I shall forever be grateful that The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has given me the chance of spending forty years in this world. I can think of no better life. "


"Going after the unknown is always fascinating, I think. It becomes part of your life, this desire to know."


"Science is not the complete answer. Science does not tell us which decisions to make, but it does tell us the possible consequences of some of those decisions."


"Many things we need can wait, the child cannot... To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today. As Australian of the Year I say to Australia - our time is now, we cannot wait."

PROFESSOR FIONA, STANLEY - quoting Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral, 2003

"Gus Nossal once said to me that one of the most important characteristics of an institute director was generosity. He's absolutely right. I think that one of the things I am good at as an institute director is being generous. And that means being generous with your time. Taking time out to mentor our young Aboriginal researchers is really important, taking time to find out about what is happening to people in the Institute and where they are going - it takes time to be generous..."

PROFESSOR FIONA, STANLEY - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"Finding mechanisms for putting carbon back into landscapes enhances biodiversity. More biodiverse ecosystems store more carbon, more securely and are more resilient to the impacts of climate change."


"If you have in mind that the only thing which is important is the progress of science - you have done your job."


"The best renewable energy is between the ears of young people."


"I think the denigration of science is a real threat. If scientists are mocked and derided, then soon we will have the total triumph of 'know nothing'."


"I don't trust humans to look after the planet the way we're going at the moment, no. I think it's going to take a kind of psychic enema to get them concentrating... In my lifetime, everything has become so different. Now, in your lifetime, in my kids' lifetime, it's gonna become different as well. Not just because things happen but because you choose them. And I think the choice has never been more important for humanity because of the huge numbers of people on earth and what we've done to the planet."


"Science is enthralling because it's wonderful to find what's happening next in the best of all possible soap operas. You know, you set up this mystery. Where did the universe come from? How do animals think? "


" I think things can be completely transformed in an environmentally sensible way, such that we would live in harmony. You know, our cities would look almost rural. You'd have forests on the roof, you'd have no air-conditioning, you'd have designer buildings which would be living things... that would be naturally green. And I think that is a way forward that's perfectly possible."


"Australia has got some of the best sports people in the world, but we've also got some of the best scientists and innovators too, and that needs to be celebrated more."

PROFESSOR FIONA, WOOD - 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, Wendy Lewis

"I think people are astonishing and they are inspirational because how an individual can take on that level of suffering and then come back stronger is a mystery to me because you see it and you just think, ?Where did that strength come from?' And for that you've got to work damned hard to make sure that even if the person doesn't survive that every lesson you can learn from that you store away because you never know when it will help somebody coming behind and nobody ever goes through that. I guess my philosophy, my aim, is that nobody ever goes through that kind of suffering and for it not to be of use to someone else."