Dame Bridget Ogilvie DBE

Citation delivered by Professor Margaret Sheil, Vice-Chancellor (Research) of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Dame Bridget Ogilvie to the degree of Doctor of Education (honoris causa) on 12 December 2005.


Vice-Chancellor, I present Dame Bridget Ogilvie.

Dame Bridget Ogilvie is a scientist of international standing whose passion for the promotion and the public understanding of science has inspired and empowered others. In her capacity for clear thinking and straight talking, you can still glimpse the influences of a childhood spent on the family sheep station in northern New South Wales. Her initiation into science began at the universities of Queensland and New England and she pursued her studies at Cambridge University where she was one of the first Commonwealth Scholars to study for a PhD.

Dame Bridget had a major role in the discovery of the presence of an enzyme in sheep and cattle that may lead to the eventual control of nematode parasites. Such a breakthrough would be hugely significant for Australia and the rest of the world. As a member of the staff of the UK Medical Research Council she undertook research on the immune response to parasitic infections and was an advisor for bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

In 1979, Dame Bridget began a long association with the Wellcome Trust. Established in 1936, the Trust has grown to become the United Kingdom’s largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research to improve human and animal health. Dame Bridget began what was to become her new career as the part-time head of the Trust’s tropical medicine portfolio. She became a full-time staff member in 1981 and progressed to appointment as Director of the Trust in October 1991. She held this post with distinction until her retirement in 1998. One of Dame Bridget’s most significant initiatives as Director was to establish the Sanger Centre which played a major role in the sequencing of the Human Genome.

Dame Bridget is an indefatigable advocate for science’s role in understanding and improving the human condition. She is strongly committed to dispelling ignorance and fear and promoting public education. While upholding the independence of scientific enquiry, she has always sought to see it accompanied by honest communication, tolerance and respect for others. Dame Bridget has been a model for her scientific colleagues and a champion for science itself in the morally challenging environment of recent decades.

Professor Ogilvie was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1996 and in 2003 she became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Among her many appointments, she is member of the National Council of Science and Technology and a trustee of the Science Museum and the National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts in the UK. She holds both a PhD and a Doctor of Science from Cambridge University

Although she has spent most of her professional life overseas, Dame Bridget has stayed in touch with her home country. She has family ties to our own region and a property in Wollongong’s northern suburbs. We are certainly proud to have her distinguished presence among us and to welcome her today into membership of this university community.

Vice-Chancellor, Dame Bridget Ogilvie became a leading women in science at a time when that was a rare and notable achievement. She has been what she calls a “bench scientist” at the leading edge in her field, an outstanding administrator and an eminent communicator and educator. It is my great pleasure and privilege to present her for the award of the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.