On Australia Day 2001, Professor Robert Porter, Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research from March 1980 until February 1989, was appointed a Companion in the Order of Australia (AC) for "excellence and achievement in medicine as an internationally renowned neuroscientist and for major contributions to the management of medical research and medical education."
Porter, the first Director to be appointed from outside the ANU, had been Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology at Monash University since 1967. After preclinical studies at the University of Adelaide, including research in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, and the award of a BMedSc degree, he went to Oxford University as Rhodes Scholar for South Australia. In 1956 Porter was awarded First Class Honours in Physiology 'Schools', and then completed his medical studies, receiving BM BCh degrees in 1959.He subsequently was awarded Doctorates of Medicine (Oxon, 1970) and Science (Adelaide, 1976), and was elected to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Following clinical appointments in the UK, Porter taught and carried out research in the University Laboratory of Physiology in Oxford. His research was primarily concerned with neurophysiological analyses of neuronal mechanisms in the cerebral cortex and subcortical nuclei in primates which control movement. This interest, of direct relevance to human neurological disorders, continued as a major theme of his research at Monash University and later when he established the Experimental Neurology Unit at the John Curtin School.
After his resignation from the School in 1989, Porter returned to Monash University as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine until his retirement in 1997. He was subsequently appointed Planning Dean of the new Medical School at James Cook University in Townsville, and is currently Director, Research Development, in the Faculty of Health Life and Molecular Sciences of that University.
As Director of the John Curtin School, Porter's special interest in developing measures by which the School and the ANU could most effectively contribute to enhancing the standard of medical practice in the ACT led to the introduction in 1985 of clinical teaching within the Canberra Hospitals of final year medical students from the University of Queensland. This was a forerunner of the opening in 1994 of the Canberra Clinical School of the University of Sydney. Late in 2000, Robert Porter chaired a Committee to advise the Federal Government on the establishment of a Medical School in Canberra. In 2001 Porter was appointed a Companion in the Order of Australia for his contributions to medical research and education. 31 January 2001