HerStory Archive

BLACKBURN, Elizabeth

Born: 1948

Special Achievements:

Elizabeth Blackburn describes her journey of discovery as starting from basic biological research on the nature of telomeres.  Telomeres cap the end of chromosomes and have a very special role in protecting our genome.  Her work has major implications for chronic disease, cancer and ageing.  In 2009, along with two American colleagues Carol Greider and Jack Szostak, she won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.  Elizabeth is Australia’s first female Nobel Laureate. 

Additional Information:

In late 2001 Elizabeth became a member of the George W. Bush administration’s “President’s Council on Bioethics”. She was dismissed from the Council in 2004 owing to her efforts and advice on the research of the human embryonic stem cell.  This was followed by expressions of outrage by many scientists who maintained that she was fired because of political opposition to her advice.  Her experience confirmed her belief that science policy be informed by good scientific evidence.


  • Image - Photo

    Elizabeth Blackburn

    Image courtesy of Elizabeth Blackburn

  • Audio - Elizabeth Blackburn

    This audio profile of Elizabeth Blackburn was produced in 2015 by 8CCC 102.1FM community radio station and the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. To hear more of the Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives: First in their Field series, please go to http://8ccc.com.au/category/ordinary-women-extraordinary-lives/.

    Audio profile courtesy of 8CCC 102.1FM and the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame