In memoriam - Dr Howard Bradbury AM
Howard in Mozambique Howard in Mozambique
29 November 2016

Dear colleagues

I have sad news. Last night, Dr Howard Bradbury AM passed away. Howard was a member of E&E. Some weeks ago, Howard had surgery from which he never completely recovered. He was with his family when he died peacefully, at 6:15pm on Monday 28 November.

I had the pleasure of meeting Howard a few times. I remember mentioning to someone after my first meeting with Howard that he was one of my heroes because he never stopped doing science. He was a gentle man who wore his faith very well: he did great science, but he wanted to make a difference in the world. His method for removing cyanide from cassava was a reflection of this – he was able to help thousands of people who would otherwise have succumbed to konzo. This year, the ANU annual day of giving was all about konzo, and the University raised $85,000 to help the cause. Howard was delighted to learn of this. 

There are others who remember him better than I do, and I can think of no better way to pay tribute to Howard than to use their own words. 

From John Carver,

Dr Howard Bradbury AM was a long-time member of the Department of Chemistry at the ANU (within the School of General Studies or the Faculties, prior to the amalgamation with the RSC).   Howard was one of the first chemistry academics appointed to the ANU, arriving here in 1961 prior to the formation of the RSC. During the next 30-odd 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.  In his later years, Howard developed a strong interest in the application of protein chemical techniques to study food crops of the third world, initially within the South Pacific and then Africa. He continued on this work very actively up until recently during his 'retirement' as an Emeritus Fellow within the Research School of Biology. I had the pleasure of being supervised by Howard for my PhD. He was a man of great intellect, enthusiasm, charm, wit, humility and good will. He was also a great humanitarian. I learnt a huge amount from him and am deeply indebted to him.

From Jan Elliott,

Howard was never happier than when explaining his work.  His enthusiasm and passion always kept the audience's attention and it inspired me to want to become involved.  I found him to be an immensely humble and generous man with a steely determination to advance his work.  He gladly offered advice to everyone who wrote but did become frustrated when things didn't move quickly enough and would resort to what I call SHOUTING WRITING to emphasise his point.  He was an unassuming man who was able to reach around the world and improve lots of lives.

From Bill Foley,

For more than 25 years, Howard worked tirelessly to translate science into effective actions to improve the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.  He did it with humility and generosity but always insisted that the science underlying the interventions be the best possible.  His passion, humour and determination inspired many of us and one of his greatest wishes was to see that work continue.  We will do our best to honour his legacy.

From Meng Zhang,

Howard has become my role model since I met him the first time. I admire very much his work on biochemistry, however, his contribution on Konzo eradication has truly inspired me. Howard is the first person that fits into the exact reason why I want to become a scientist. He has not only made a contribution in moving science forward but also integrated his science knowledge into directly resolving health problems for the people who live in chronic poverty. I wish to become a truly meaningful scientist who can integrate science/philanthropy and carry on his Konzo work in the future.

Poignantly, Meng added the following: “Sorry Allen, I am too sad to write properly at the moment. This is the best I can do.”

Clearly, Howard touched the lives of many. 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. I think 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.

Our thoughts are with his family, his friends, his colleagues, and everyone who has been a part of his life.

Allen Rodrigo


Prof Allen Rodrigo PhD DSc FRSNZ


Research School of Biology