Double Helix, Double Joy

Double Helix, Double Joy : David Danks the Father of Clinical Genetics in Australia

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Professor David Danks explained in a public lecture revealingly titled, Double Helix, Double Joy, that 'Even from its infancy it was apparent that the double helix was going to change not only science, but also the community's image of science'. 'Double Joy' conveyed his sense that the developments cascading from Watson and Crick's initial DNA discovery would yield 'immense benefits' for people generally, and also for his own research ambitions. A double joy made concrete in the foundation of the Murdoch Institute for Research into Birth Defects where he could fully implement his vision of unfettered basic scientific research wedded to clinical practice and services to public health. Born into the long-established Melbourne family of hardware merchants, Danks chose a career path more aligned to that family's association with hospitals and health. Inspired to know 'why a disease had occurred' and 'how it could be anticipated and prevented', Danks trained with pioneers of human genetics in London and Baltimore from 1959. At that time, human genetics was scarcely known in Australia. Following his discovery of the cause of Menkes disease in 1972 and breakthroughs in PKU testing, he applied his entrepreneurial flair to the development of a brilliant multi-disciplinary research team focussed on the identification of genetic diseases affecting newborns and their treatment in the clinic. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch embraced his vision and helped launch the Murdoch Institute in 1986, based at the Royal Children's Hospital. A man of 'towering intellect', who did it 'because it was fun', Danks' legacy reaches beyond the Murdoch Institute to the establishment of clinical genetics services throughout Australia, the internationally acclaimed POSSUM database, and the next generation of researchers who continue to explore and expand his vision.show more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Melbourne University Press
  • Melbourne University Press Digital
  • Australia
  • 052286211X
  • 9780522862119

About Carolyn Rasmussen

Carolyn Rasmussen completed post-graduate studies in labour history and the peace movement at the University of Melbourne where she is currently an Honorary Senior Fellow. Her work as a public historian since 1985 has ranged over the history of Victorian public institutions, the history of science and technology, education history, the involvement of women in all of the above, and biography. Her publications include Poor Man's University: Seventy Five Years of Technical Education in Footscray; The Lesser Evil? Opposition to War and Fascism in Australia 1920-1941; A Place Apart, The University of Melbourne: Decades of Challenge (with John Poynter); a chapter on women scientists, in F. Kelly (ed.), On the Edge of Discovery: Australian Women in Science; A Museum for the People: A history of Museum Victoria and its predecessors, 1854-2000, which was judged best print publication, Victorian Community History Awards, 2002; a short history of the Science Faculty at the University of Melbourne, Increasing Momentum: Engineering at the University of Melbourne 1861-2004; and fourteen entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Her most recent work was a chapter on Professor J. N. Greenwood, Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Melbourne, in a volume she also co-edited with Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick on Political Tourists: Travellers from Australia to the Soviet Union in the 1920s-1940s. She has been a member of the Victorian Working Party of the Australian Dictionary of Biography project since 1998, and the University of Melbourne History of the University Unit since its inception in 1996. In 2004 she was awarded a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship to further her joint biography of the radical political and social activists, Maurice and Doris Blackburn. She is currently completing the centenary history of University High School. Alister Danks is the youngest of David's five children. Alister has worked as a professional engineer, business consultant and logistics manager across Australia and Asia. He completed an MBA at the London Business School to complement his engineering studies at the University of Melbourne. He was previously an editor of Strategic Supply Chain Alignment (Gower, 1998). Alister saw the opportunity to document the story of his father who had always been an inspiration to the family and the wider community. He embarked on a series of interviews in 2002, supported by his sister Jenny and mother, June, which formed a base for this biography written by Carolyn Rasmussen. Alister is currently living in Shanghai with Heather and their three daughters.show more