Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet


Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1960

Born: 3 September 1899, Traralgon, Australia

Died: 31 August 1985, Melbourne, Australia

Affiliation at the time of the award: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia

Prize motivation: “for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance”

Prize share: 1/2


Our immune system protects us against attacks by microorganisms and rejects foreign tissue. Part of our immunity has a hereditary basis, but part of it is acquired and is not present in the fetus. In 1949 Macfarlane Burnet theorized that the ability to distinguish between one’s own and foreign tissue is not hereditary but is acquired during the fetus stage. The theory was substantiated when Peter Medawar succeeded in performing transplants of tissue between different mouse fetuses. The results had significance for organ transplants.

To cite this section
MLA style: Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Fri. 29 Sep 2023. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Coming up

This year’s Nobel Prize announcements will take place 2–9 October. All announcements will be streamed live here on

See the full schedule
Announcement dates

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.