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State Memorial Service for Emeritus Professor Derek Denton AC FRS FAA FRCP FRACP LLD (Hon.)

A State Memorial Service was held for Emeritus Professor Derek Denton AC FRS AC FRS FAA FRCP FRACP LLD (Hon.) at Rippon Lea Estate on Thursday 23 March 2023.

A State Memorial Service for Emeritus Professor Derek (Dick) Denton AC FRS FAA FRCP FRACP LLD (Hon) was held at Rippon Lea Estate at 11 am on Thursday 23 March 2023.

Professor Denton’s family, friends, colleagues and members of the public attended the service to reflect on his life, contribution to Victoria and numerous ground-breaking discoveries in medical research.

Science journalist and broadcaster Mr Robyn Williams AO FAA was Master of Ceremonies and welcomed all in attendance to the State Memorial Service. Bunurong Traditional Custodian, Mr Daniel Weston then performed the Welcome to Country, and this was followed by the Australian National Anthem performed by Miss Hope Zorbas.

Professor Denton’s sons, Mr Angus (Gus) Denton and Mr Matthew Denton paid tribute to their father, remembering him fondly with humour, laughter and love.

They shared memories of growing up with two parents who were both driving forces behind the formation of major Australian institutions: Professor Denton with the Florey Institute, and their mother Dame Margaret Scott AC DBE with the Australian Ballet Foundation and the Australian Ballet School.

Matthew and Angus recalled growing up in a home that encouraged curiosity, debate and learning, and had a steady stream of visitors who became ‘aunts and uncles’ but also happened to be Australian and international leaders in their fields.

They shared how their father’s curiosity was driven by a true desire to make the world a better place for all, and how whether he was speaking to students, colleagues, Rupert Murdoch or Nelson Mandela, his talent was inspiring others with the idea of discovery, quietly convincing them to contribute to the Florey Institute as benefactors.

A touching photo montage followed, highlighting the diversity of Professor Denton’s interests and loves throughout his life – his wife Maggie, his children, family, friends, curiosity, ideas and knowledge, research – and appreciation of fine red wine.

Writer, broadcaster and former Labor Minister, the Hon. Dr Barry Jones AC FAA FAHA FTSE FASSA FRSA FRSV FACE FAIM paid tribute to Professor Denton’s many and far-reaching achievements as a research physiologist.

He spoke of Professor Denton’s courage to take on big complex research ideas with formidable energy. He recalled Professor Denton as a generous host, who was creative, insightful and an inspiration to his friends.

A final tribute was given by author, screenwriter and former political adviser, Mr Don Watson, who reflected on his 30-year friendship with Professor Denton. Mr Watson shared that he was mesmerised by Professor Denton’s dedication to science, extraordinary stories and enigmatic politics. He marvelled at how Professor Denton’s ideas were at home anywhere – and those shared by the fire while listening to Bach, were as equally as important as those shared in boardrooms or at the Royal Society in London.

The service concluded with Mr Williams thanking everyone for their attendance in celebration and memory of one of Australia’s greatest scientific minds.


The recording of the State Memorial Service can be viewed below.