Ann Woolcock

Ann Janet Woolcock AO FAA FRACP (11 December 1937, Reynella, South Australia – 17 February 2001, Sydney) was an Australian respiratory physician–scientist and one of the world's leading asthma experts. She contributed greatly to the field of asthma research and founded the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Sydney, which is now known as the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.[1][2][3][4]

In 1992 Woolcock became the first woman in clinical medicine to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. She was a founding member and President of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology,[5] and was the Principal Scientist of the Co-operative Research Centre for Asthma (CRC for Asthma) in 1999.[6]

Early life and education

Ann Janet Woolcock was born in Reynella, South Australia on 11 December 1937 and was the oldest of four children.[7] After attending Reynella Public School, she completed her secondary education in Adelaide at Walford Church of England Girls Grammar.[7] She then went on to study medicine at the University of Adelaide[7] before beginning her postgraduate studies in respiratory medicine at University of Sydney to complete a thesis on the mechanical behaviour of lungs in asthma (awarded 1967)[8][9] with a focus on hyperinflation.[6]


During 1966 and 1968, Woolcock lived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and worked at McGill University as the Overseas Research Fellow for the Asthma Foundation of NSW.[6][8] She then returned to the Department of Medicine, University of Sydney as a senior research fellow of the Asthma Foundation of NSW and then Basser Research Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians[6] She was appointed as senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Department of Medicine in 1973 and became associate professor in 1976. Woolcock went on to be appointed to a personal chair in 1984.[6]

Contribution to asthma research

Woolcock published over 300 journal articles and book chapters, making major contributions to the field of asthma research. Her early work was influential, revolutionising understanding of the mechanisms and consequences of the physiology of airway obstruction of acute asthma.[6]

She worked in the New Guinea Highlands, Sydney and rural New South Wales in later work focusing on allergen sensitivity, airway responsiveness and the development of asthma in children. Woolcock's work on asthma epidemiology and population health resulted in her international acclaim as she led research in the field in Australia, promoting respiratory health throughout the Asia–Pacific region.[10] She instigated the organisation of Asthma Research Days in Sydney. The aim of these events was to encourage collaboration and communication between researchers in the field.[10]

In 1985, Woolcock founded the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, based at the Royal Price Alfred Hospital, Sydney. In 2002, the institute was renamed Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in memory of her, following her passing in 2001.[7]

Personal life

In 1968, Woolcock married Ruthven Blackburn (1913–2016), a professor of medicine at the University of Sydney,[11] later emeritus professor Blackburn AC.[12] The couple raised two sons, Simon and Angus.[10]

Awards and honours


  1. ^ Smith, Babette (11 November 2014). "Ann Janet Woolcock 1937–2001" (PDF). Historical Records of Australian Science. Australian Academy of Science.
  2. ^ "Search Australian Honours". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 26 January 1989. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Woolcock, Ann Janet, AO, FAA (1937-2001)". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  4. ^ Walker, Rosanne (30 June 1997). "Woolcock, Ann Janet (1937 - 2001)". Encyclopaedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  5. ^ "APSR Newsletter Vol. 10, No. 1, 2001". Asian Pacific Society of Respirology. 2001. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Woolcock, Ann". Sydney Medical School. University of Sydney. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Stone, Jonathan (2000). "Professor Ann Woolcock (1937-2001), medical scientist". Interviews with Australian Scientists. Australian Academy of Science.
  8. ^ a b "The Late Professor Ann Woolcock". Asthma Foundation. Asthma Australia. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Teachers' notes - Professor Ann Woolcock (1937-2001), medical scientist". Australian Academy of Science.
  10. ^ a b c C. Jenkins. "College Roll: Woolcock, Ann Janet". The Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Archived from the original on 2014-08-14. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  11. ^ "Blackburn, Charles Ruthven Bickerton". Sydney Medical School. University of Sydney. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  12. ^ Professor Ruthven Blackburn - a life spent in service of medicine and his country, 27 May 2016, Sydnet Morning Herald.

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