Thorburn Brailsford Robertson

Professor Thorburn Brailsford Robertson is unknown outside the cloisters of the Adelaide and a few other universities but his contribution to man's knowledge numbers him amongst South Australia's great contributors.

Robertson, born 4 March 1884 Edinburgh, the son of Thorburn and Sheila Robertson nee Brailsford, came to SA in 1894 when his father took on a position at the Callington Mines near Murray Bridge. Brailsford gained a BSc from Adelaide University in 1905 and was shortly afterward appointed a lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley where he continued his studies gaining a PhD in 1907 from Berkeley and a Doctor of Science from Adelaide in 1908. He continued working at Berkeley and was appointed Professor in 1917. In 1918 he was appointed to the Chair of Biochemistry at Toronto. In 1919 Professor Robertson returned to Adelaide and became the first incumbent of the Chair of Biochemistry. He is considered to be a pathfinder in this discipline in Australia.Robertson

Professor Robertson was instrumental in having purpose-built laboratories constructed at Adelaide. In 1922 the Darling Building to accommodate the Physiology, Biochemistry and Histology Departments was opened. Within a year of the discovery of insulin at Toronto in 1922, Robertson had gained a licence and production of this life-saving material started in the Darling Building using the most advanced processes that enabled insulin to be produced cheaply in large quantities for the first time in the world. A fact largely ignored outside Australia today!

Professor Robertson's became absorbed in the research of growth proteins and made a significant contribution to medical research with the discovery, in 1923, of tethelin which has been found of great value in the treatment of slow-healing wounds. He also applied the study of growth proteins to agricultural science and he was approached by the Commonwealth to head up a division of animal nutrition which led to his appointment as Director of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute. It was in this position that he died 18 January 1930 at Glenelg as the result of influenza complicated by pneumonia. He was aged 45.

Professor Robertson married his Adelaide professor's (Sir Edward Charles Stirling and Jane nee Gilbert) daughter, Jane Winnifred Stirling on 1 July 1910 at the Stirling home, Mt Lofty. They had two sons and a daughter.

Professor T Brailsford Robertson's memorial takes the form of a stained glass window in the Mitchell Building of the Adelaide University plus the many thousands who have benefited from cheap plentiful insulin. In his packed career, he published many papers, textbooks and childrens' storybooks.

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