Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Vale Emeritus Professor Adrian Lee FRSN

Emeritus Professor Adrian LeeThe Society is deeply saddened at the passing of one of its Fellows, Emeritus Professor Adrian Lee FRSN, on 21 July 2023.

Adrian Lee was a significant and important medical academic.  He was in academe professionally for 54 years, became Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of New South Wales, was a Pro-Vice-Chancellor at that University, was an Emeritus Professor of that University, had received an honorary doctorate from another university for his important work, and was, of course, a Fellow of this Society. 

Robin Warren and Barry Marshall needed Adrian Lee for the ground-breaking work they did to earn their Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005. He heard them present in Brussels in 1983 and was sufficiently impressed to want to help them in their endeavours.  He, on the East Coast, helped those colleagues in Perth — he was the one who was able to culture and grow the helicobacter pylori organisms for them.  When Warren and Marshall received the Nobel prize, Adrian Lee accompanied them to Stockholm where he was an honoured guest.  Gastroenterologists in Australia know the names of Warren and Marshall but few know, or remember, the important contribution of Adrian Lee to that paradigm-altering enterprise.  So, he is an unsung hero.  

Do you remember the cryptosporidium scare when cryptosporidium cysts were found in Sydney drinking water?  Doubtless, the kangaroos in the water catchment were ingesting and shedding cryptosporidium spores constantly, and the presence of those spores in water should not have surprised anyone.  Adrian Lee’s advice at that time was to drink the water and not to worry too much, but there was a public outcry and mothers in Sydney were still boiling drinking water for their children – just to be sure.

Adrian Lee was approachable and friendly and ready to answer questions — he was a pleasure to be with and to know.

He bore his final and long illness with quiet fortitude.

Peter Baume AC DistFRSN

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