Obituary: Emeritus Professor Tony McMichael AO 1942-2014

Written by Professor Colin Butler and Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas

Professor Tony McMichael was the world's leading scholar and commentator on the relationship between climate change and human health.

Many people aspire to make the world a better place, but few have succeeded in this task as he did.

Following his undergraduate medical student days at Adelaide University, Tony was elected as President of the National Union of Australian University Students (now the NUS).

After a short stint in general practice he undertook doctoral research studies on the mental wellbeing of university students under the supervision of Professor Basil Hetzel at Monash University.

Encouraged by René Dubos, the Pulitzer Prize winning visionary for planetary health, Tony undertook post-doctoral studies in occupational health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

He returned to Australia to lead an epidemiologic unit in the CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, which explored nutritional determinants of a range of health outcomes.

With Hetzel, then head of that division, he published The LS Factor, an important text that had cartoons that enlivened the text.

Tony, an epidemiologic all-rounder was becoming, by the early '80s, particularly interested in the application of epidemiology to the evolving crisis around climate change.

In the early '90s, Tony chaired national enquiries into water fluoridation and the health effects of passive smoking, both of which set the scene for national public health action.