Derrick Rowley

Eminent researcher and Emeritus Professor of Microbibiology and Immunology at the University of Adelaide, Derrick Rowley, studied for his BSc (Hons) Chemistry at Bradford Technical College from 1938 to 1941.

Derrick RowleyDerrick was a working class lad whose outstanding abilities enabled him to enjoy an excellent education, winning scholarships to Bradford Grammar School and then Bradford Technical College, where after 3 years studying he graduated with First Class Honours in his external London degree.

He then worked in petrochemical research, based in Manchester, London and Orpington. On completion of his PhD he seemed set for a successful career within the chemical industries until he took a completely different direction, which demanded great commitment from him but ultimately benefited many.

Derrick had spent some time at the Glaxo Laboratories during his spell in London and his encounter there with Sir Alexander Fleming prompted him to work part-time for the illustrious discoverer of penicillin at St Mary’s Hospital and to study medicine. He qualified in 1950 and received a Harkness Fellowship to undertake research in America. On his return he was made Head of the Department of Bacterial Chemistry at the Wright Fleming Institute in London.

He left London in 1960 to become Chair of Microbiology at the University of Adelaide, remaining there 28 years. He increased the size and scope of the Department, which later became the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, enormously. During his service at the University he also spent 3 years as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Derrick was founder and first President of the Australian Society for Immunology, edited the Australian Journal of Experimental Biology and Medical Science (later Immunology and Cell Biology) and was a member of the National Health & Medical Research Council.

He gained an international reputation for his significant research into in enteric infections and the bacterial causes of their spread and he used this expert knowledge in a number of advisory roles for the World Health Organization (WHO). He chaired the WHO Committee of Diarrhoeal Disease Research and the Scientific Program Committee of the International Centre of Diarrhoeal Diseases Research in Bangladesh.

When Derrick retired from the University of Adelaide in 1988, he became Chairman of Council of the Child Health Research Institute; helped establish and acted as part-time Research Director at Enterovax Research Pty Ltd, which used the latest DNA technology to develop vaccines against enteric diseases; and worked as Research Director/Adviser at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He was also a consultant and advisor on various charitable projects seeking to improve the health of Tibetan refugees in India. His immense contributions to immunology were recognised in 1993 when Derrick was made a member of the Order of Australia.

Derrick died in 2004 but his legacy lives on in the important work done by the substantial number of researchers who he encouraged.

Photograph courtesy of the University of Adelaide