F. J. Austin

Elected to Honorary membership: 
Otago University

Frank Austin was born in the Hawkes Bay in 1927. He worked initially as a hospital laboratory technician at Napier and Hastings hospitals. In 1945 he moved to Wellington Hospital Laboratory where he obtained his certificate of proficiency in techniques in bacteriology and clinical pathology. He graduated BSc in zoology from Victoria University in 1950. He then worked for six months in Western Samoa, before joining the staff of the Medical Research Council’s Virus Research Unit in Dunedin, where he remained until his retirement in 1992. While on the VRU staff, Frank continued his degree studies, graduating MSc in microbiology and a PhD in virology from Otago University (1965).

Frank spent his early research days working with polio virus with Dr Lyle Fastier, but in the late 1950s the Unit began studies of insect-transmitted viruses and Frank was heavily involved with the field work and laboratory studies which resulted in the isolation of Whataroa virus, a mosquito Group A arbovirus. Later still, Frank became involved in the Unit’s work with hepatitis B virus and, towards the end of his career, with the influenza viruses, working in close collaboration with Professor Rob Webster, in Memphis, Tennessee. Finally, in the few years before his retirement, he came back to the arboviruses and successfully created a large battery of dengue virus monoclonal antibodies. Frank has a special interest in the history of the Society and has contributed several valuable articles to “NZ Microbiology”. A meticulous worker, Frank set the high standards of laboratory practice and passed these on to all he taught and mentored. He was elected an Honorary Member of NZMS in 1993.