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Jacques Miller : biography

2 April 1931 -

Jacques Francis Albert Pierre Miller AC FRS FAA (born 2 April 1931) is a distinguished research scientist. He is famous for having discovered the function of the thymus and for the identification, in mammalian species of the two major subsets of lymphocytes (T cells and B cells) and their function.

Early life and education

Miller was born on 2 April 1931 in Nice, France, as J.F.A.P. Meunier, and grew up in France, Switzerland and China, mostly in Shanghai. After the outbreak of World War II, in anticipation of Japan's entry into the war, his family moved in 1941 to Sydney, Australia, and changed their last name to "Miller". He was educated at St Aloysius' College in Sydney, where he met his future colleague, Sir Gustav Nossal.

Miller studied medicine at the University of Sydney, and had his first experience of laboratory research in the laboratory of Professor Patrick de Burgh where he studied virus infection.


In 1958, Miller travelled to the United Kingdom on a Gaggin Research Fellowship from the University of Queensland. He was accepted to the Chester Beatty Research Institute of Cancer Research (part of the Institute of Cancer Research, London) and as a PhD student at the University of London. Miller chose to study the pathogenesis of lymphocytic leukemia in mice, expanding on the research of Ludwik Gross into murine leukemia virus. Miller showed that experimental animals without a thymus at birth were incapable of rejecting foreign tissues and resisting many infections, thus demonstrating that the thymus is vital for development and function of the adaptive immune system. Prior to this, the thymus was believed to be a vestigial organ with no function. His discovery has led many to describe Miller as the "world's only living person who can claim to have been the first to have described the functions of a human organ". In 1963, Miller continued his work into the function of the thymus at the National Institutes of Health.

In 1966, Miller returned to Australia to become a research group leader at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, at the invitation of its new director Sir Gustav Nossal, the successor of Sir Macfarlane Burnet. There, with student Graham Mitchell, he discovered that mammalian lymphocytes can be separated into what were later called T cells and B cells, and that these interact to allow normal antibody production (T cell help). Miller went on to show that the thymus produces the T cells, that it removes autoreactive T cells (central T cell tolerance) and several other landmark findings in immunology. These are considered crucial to understanding diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity and AIDS, as well as processes such as transplant rejection, allergy and antiviral immunity.

Semi-retired since 1996, Miller is still involved in immunological research.

Miller has had a longstanding interest in art, and studied art in the 1980s. His art has been exhibited at venues in Melbourne.

Seminal publications

Category:1931 births Category:Australian scientists Category:Companions of the Order of Australia Category:Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science Category:Fellows of the Royal Society Category:French emigrants to Australia Category:Living people Category:Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences Category:Recipients of the Copley Medal Category:Sydney Medical School alumni Category:Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research alumni Category:People educated at St Aloysius' College (Sydney)

Awards and Honours

  • 1966 Gairdner Foundation International Award
  • 1967 Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London
  • 1970 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, London
  • 1974 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize
  • 1978 Rabbi Shai Shacknai Memorial Prize
  • 1982 Elected Foreign Associate for the United States National Academy of Science
  • 1983 International St Vincent Prize; World Health Organization
  • 1990 Sandoz Prize for Immunology
  • 1990 Peter Medawar Prize for the Transplantation Society
  • 1992 Croonian Prize, Royal Society
  • J Alwyn Taylor International Prize for Medicine
  • 2001 Royal Society of London Copley Medal
  • 2003 Prime Minister's Prize for Science
  • 2003 Appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)
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