Vale Emeritus Professor Howard Bradbury

29 November 2016

ANU has paid tribute to Emeritus Professor Howard Bradbury AM, who dedicated 26 years to eradicating Konzo, a crippling neurological disease caused by high levels of a cyanide compound found in cassava, a common staple food in Africa.

Professor Bradbury died on Monday, aged 90.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said Professor Bradbury's death was a great loss for the ANU and the Australian science community.

"The University is mourning the loss of a great man and a great scientist," Professor Schmidt said.

"Howard's legacy will live on through the University's ongoing work to eradicate Konzo.

"On behalf of the University community, I extend my deepest sympathy to Howard's wife Ruth, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to his many friends and colleagues."

Director of the ANU Research School of Chemistry, Professor John Carver, was Professor Bradbury's PhD student and friend. He said Professor Bradbury had touched the lives of people all over the world.

"Howard was a man of great intellect, enthusiasm, charm, wit, humility and good will," Professor Carver said.

"He was also a great humanitarian. I learnt a huge amount from him and am deeply indebted to him."

Director of the ANU Research School of Biology Professor Allen Rodrigo said Professor Bradbury not only did great science, but he wanted to make a difference in the world.

"Sometimes, as members of a University, we get caught up in the search for grants, in the need to publish or perish, and in the day-to-day ructions of a competitive environment," Professor Rodrigo said.

"Someone like Howard reminds us about the other side of our work - the joy of doing good things, the value of others, and the role we play as citizens of a broader community."

Professor Bradbury came to the ANU in 1961. He was one of the first chemistry academics appointed to the University.

During the next 25 years, he pioneered the use of NMR spectroscopy to study protein structure. His work led to the first detailed insights into the solution structure of proteins.

Professor Bradbury also wanted to see a world without Konzo, a disease that causes irreversible paralysis of the legs, often in children and young women. He developed simple way to prepare the cassava flour with minimal cyanide levels.

In 2007 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to science as a plant biochemist, particularly through research and the development of a test kit to measure levels of cyanide in cassava and other food crops.

Professor Bradbury continued this work very actively as an Emeritus Fellow within the ANU Research School of Biology.

This year the ANU Annual Day of Giving raised $85,000 to help eradicate Konzo. The money raised will enable ANU to work with local health practitioners to help teach villages how to prevent new outbreaks.