National Library of Australia

Enjoy a CovidSafe visit to the National Library.

You must be logged in to Tag Records
Sir John Cornforth interviewed by Ann Turner for the Australians of the year oral history project [sound recording]
Bib ID 2170078
Format AudioAudio [sound recording]
Cornforth, John Warcup, Sir, 1917-2013, Interviewee
Access Conditions Access open for research; written permission required for personal copies and public use during the lifetime of the interviewee. 
Description 1995 
1 digital audio tape (ca. 113 min.) 

Australians of the year oral history project.


Cornforth speaks of his family background and his three siblings' accomplishments, growing up in Sydney, how the first signs of deafness through otosclerosis began at age 10 until permanent deafness in his early twenties and how he coped, his interest in chemistry from age 14 and entry to University of Sydney at 16, his dependency on reading at the Library as he could rarely hear the lectures, met his wife Rita at university, his skills at playing chess which remains a continuing interest, his lecturers in chemistry, his friendship with Arthur Birch, how he and Rita succeeded in 1939 in obtaining the Exhibition of 1851 Research scholarship to Oxford to work with Robert Robinson, the world's leading organic chemist, on their doctorates, how on sailing to England war broke out, awarded their doctorates in 1941 and married at the same time, how they first worked on anti-malerials due to a shortage of quninine but then engaged in work to synthesise Fleming's penicillin but solved the fermentation problem instead, first daughter Brenda born during the War, then spent 16 years at the Medical Research Council in Hampstead, his work with Robinson in the successful synthesis of sex hormones, his collaboration with George Popjak.


Cornforth was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1975 for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions. He was named Australian of the Year in 1975.


Recorded on May 20, 1995 in Lewes, England.

Digital master available National Library of Australia;

Index/Finding Aid Note Corrected transcript available (typescript, 19 leaves). 
Subjects Cornforth, John Warcup, Sir, 1917-2013 -- Interviews.  |  Biochemists -- Australia -- Interviews.  |  Chemists -- Australia -- Interviews.  |  Scientists -- Professional ethics.  |  Medical research personnel -- Australia -- Interviews.  |  Medicine -- Research -- History -- 20th century.
Other authors/contributors Turner, Ann, 1929-2011, Interviewer


    In the Library

    Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video Help Video.

    Details Collect From
    ORAL TRC 3288
    Copy: Recording
    Special Collections Reading Room
    ORAL TRC 3288 (transcript)
    Copy: transcript
    Special Collections Reading Room

    Order a copy

    - Copyright or permission restrictions may apply. We will contact you if necessary.

    Help Video To learn more about Copies Direct watch this short online video Help Video.
    close Can I borrow items from the Library?

    You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video embedded.

    You can view this on the NLA website.

    close What can I get online?

    You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video embedded.

    You can view this on the NLA website.

    close Can I get copies of items from the Library?

    You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video embedded.

    You can view this on the NLA website.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags
    Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other First Nations people are advised that this catalogue contains names, recordings and images of deceased people and other content that may be culturally sensitive. Please also be aware that you may see certain words or descriptions in this catalogue which reflect the author’s attitude or that of the period in which the item was created and may now be considered offensive.