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Teacher's legacy inspires a new generation.

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Media Release


13 July 2005 MIN 1154/05

It was a great honour tonight to present the inaugural Len Basser Award for Leadership in Science to Chang Lian, a student at the 33rd Professor Harry Messel International Science School at the University of Sydney.

The Professor Harry Messel International Science School has been held at the School of Physics in the University of Sydney since 1962. It provides a unique opportunity for high school students from around the world to meet for two weeks and be taught by some of the world’s foremost experts across a range of scientific fields.

Lecturers at the International Science School and members of Young Scientists Australia voted Chang Lian from the People’s Republic of China as the most deserving student for the Award. The award recognises students with originality of thought and a willingness to assist others at the school. Both of these qualities were epitomised by the outstanding science teacher, the late Len Basser.

Len Basser was a chemistry teacher at Sydney Boys’ High School from 1931 to 1959 and was well known for his inquiring mind and passion for nurturing his students’ understanding of science.

He taught some of the most gifted scientists of our time, eight of whom are currently Fellows of the Royal Society, which was established in 1660 and is considered one of the world’s most prestigious academies of science. The President of the Royal Society, Lord Robert May of Oxford University, is amongst them. Other former students to excel in their scientific disciplines are:

● Sir John Cornforth, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975;

● Ed Salpeter, one of the world’s most distinguished astrophysicists;

● Hans Freeman, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June this

year for service to scientific research; and ● Graeme Clark, the inventor of the Bionic Ear, who received the Prime Minister’s

Prize for Science in 2004.

Len Basser’s legacy will live on in the achievements of his students and the benefits they have brought to the world. Our nation, and indeed the international scientific community,

owes Len Basser a debt we can barely understand, let alone repay.

It was pleasing to see that two Indigenous students participated in the International Science School this year and I wish the organisers every success in their efforts to encourage even more Indigenous students to take part in future years.

The Australian Government is committed to fostering the next generation of scientists and last year made a $1 million contribution to the Messel Endowment Fund, which is designed to support the International Science School’s operating costs in perpetuity.

Media Contacts: Dr Nelson’s Office: Yaron Finkelstein 0414 927 663