2012 Dyason Lecture

Professor Warwick Anderson, (ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor, Sydney) will deliver the 2012 Dyason Lecture:

Fashioning the Immunological Self: The Biological Individuality of F. Macfarlane Burnet

During the 1940s and 1950s, the Australian microbiologist F. Macfarlane Burnet sought a biologically plausible explanation of antibody production. In this talk, I seek to recover the conceptual pathways that Burnet followed in his immunological theorizing. In so doing, I emphasize the influence of philosophical speculations on individuality, especially those of Alfred North Whitehead; the impact of cybernetics and information theory; and the contributions of clinical research into autoimmune disease at Melbourne. Accordingly, this essay describes an intellectual arc distinct from most other tracings of Burnet’s conceptual development, which focus on his early bacteriophage research and his fascination with the work of Julian Huxley and other biologists in the 1920s. No doubt these were potent influences, but they seem insufficient to explain Burnet’s sudden enthusiasm in the 1940s for immunological definitions of self and not-self. I want to demonstrate here how Burnet’s deep involvement in philosophical biology—along with ineluctable clinical entanglements—shaped his immunological theories.


The lecture will take place in the Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre at the University of Sydney, from 6:30-8:00pm. The event is free and open to all.

Bond University, Robina, QLD 4226