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The unveiling of a portrait: Professor Blackburn

Professor Blackburn and the artist, Mr Mathew LynnOn 14th April, the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, unveiled a portrait of Emeritus Professor Charles Ruthven Bickerton Blackburn AC. The portrait was commissioned by members of the RPA and University of Sydney Communities with Clinical Professor Michael Halmagyi, together with Professor Iven Young and Professor Warwick Britton, as the driving force. Financial support for this project was so overwhelming that a prize has been established in Professor Blackburns name. It will be awarded to the top fourth year medical student at the University of Sydney.

Professor Blackburn was born into a PA Family. His father, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, was appointed to the Resident Medical staff in 1899 after graduating top of his medical class at the University of Sydney. He was later Dean of Medicine and Chancellor of the University but remained an Honorary Consultant at RPA until his death in 1972. Professor Ruthven Blackburn was born in 1913 and graduated from the University of Sydney Medical School in 1937, winning first place in his final year examination. He was appointed Resident Medical Officer that year, beginning his long association with RPA. In 1949 he became an Honorary Physician, a position he held until his retirement in 1978.

Blackie, as he is affectionately called by friends, set up the Clinical Research Unit in 1949 and for this he is considered to be the pioneer of Clinical Research at the University of Sydney. This unit enthusiastically encouraged strong and ongoing links between the Hospital and the University. Professor Blackburn was Chairman of this Unit until 1956. He was a member of the Board of Directors from 1962-85 and Chairman of its Planning Committee from 1969-85. In 1984 he became Chairman of the Board of Directors for one year. He served as the University of Sydneys representative and as Chairman on the Project Planning Committee for E-Block from 1969-85. Professor Blackburn is credited with the establishment of the Haematology Clinic (1958), the Resident Training Committee (1967) the Department of Community Medicine (1970) and the Institute of Respiratory Medicine (1980-81). He played a major role in obtaining the National Liver Transplant Unit in 1983 and the National Medical Cyclotron in 1985.

Most memorable are the personal connections made over the past 70+ years. Professor Blackburn was a formidable teacher and won the respect of many young medical students over the years. He is credited with keeping some of the brightest and the best on our shores (and at our Hospital!). This was done through a strong medical research ethos and a supportive environment for research programmes and innovative ideas.

Professor Blackburns portrait will be hung in a place yet to be determined. Its artist, Mathew Lynn, is from the Blue Mountains. He has done many portraits of academic, artistic and public figures and, as Governor Bashir mentioned, his work is featured at Government House. Mr Lynn has been a frequent finalist in the Archibald Prize competition and won the Peoples Choice award in 1997.