Vale Emeritus Professor Tony McMichael

The Australian National University community is mourning the death of distinguished Professor and epidemiologist Tony McMichael, who spent his life improving the world's health.

Emeritus Professor McMichael AO died at his Canberra home. He was 71.

For more than 40 years, Professor McMichael was a champion of environmental health and he became the world's authority on the impact of climate change on human health.

The former director of the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH) was also instrumental in alerting the world to the dangers of passive smoking as well as the health impact of lead pollution, leading to a ban on lead in petrol in more than 100 countries.

Since the early 1990s, Professor McMichael was a world authority on the risks to human health from climate change, and his work advised both the World Health Organization and the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young AO led the tributes to Professor McMichael, describing his death as a great loss to the University and the world of science.

"Tony was a fearless and tireless champion of public health, whose work has improved the lives of millions of people around the world," Professor Young said.

"He was a giant in the field of epidemiology, who cared about people and inspired the best from his colleagues and students. He will be dearly missed.

"On behalf of the University, I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends."

Professor McMichael studied medicine in Adelaide and completed a PhD in epidemiology in 1972, before working as an academic and researcher at the University of North Carolina in the United States, the CSIRO and the University of Adelaide.

He also served as Professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine between 1994 and 2001.

Professor McMichael was Director at NCEPH from 2001 to 2007, and he was awarded a prestigious Australia Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2007.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2011 Australia Day Honours, and was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in the same year.

Professor McMichael published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and three major books, including his 1993 book Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and Human Health, which outlined the threats to health from climate change, ozone depletion, land degradation, loss of biodiversity and the explosion of cities.

He also served on the Science Advisory Panel to the former Australian government's Climate Change Commission, and was an Honorary Professor of Climate Change and Health at the University of Copenhagen.

Professor McMichael was an active advocate for his research right up to his death. In the past issue of ANU Reporter, he wrote about the increased role for the Australian Defence Force in a world hit by climate change.

"As the tempo of extreme weather events increases in a warming world with an energised atmosphere, the need for disaster relief and rebuilding will escalate, both here and within the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

A keen music lover, Professor McMichael is survived by his wife Judith and two daughters.

The ANU is planning a memorial service, with details to follow.

The family has asked for donations to The Climate Institute in lieu of flowers.