Barry Marshall Biography

Barry James Marshall, an Australian physician and Nobel Prize laureate, is renowned for his groundbreaking discovery alongside Dr Robin Warren. Their research challenged the prevailing belief that stress, spicy foods, and excess acid were the primary causes of peptic ulcers. Instead, they identified the bacterium Helicobacter pylori as the root cause. This discovery not only revolutionized the understanding of peptic ulcers but also established a link between H. pylori infection and stomach cancer. Born into an average middle-class household, Marshall’s passion for science led him to earn a Bachelor degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Western Australia. Inspired by the work of Dr Robin Warren, Marshall embarked on a career in research, ultimately uncovering the significant role of H. pylori in peptic ulcers. His exceptional contributions to the field have earned him numerous awards and honors.

Quick Facts

  • Australian Celebrities Born In September
  • Age: 72 Years, 72 Year Old Males
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Adrienne, children: Bronwyn, Caroline and Jessica, Luke
  • Immunologists
  • Australian Men
  • Awards: Nobel Prize in Medicine (2005)

Childhood & Early Life

Barry Marshall was born on September 30, 1951 in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. His father was in his final year of apprenticeship as a fitter and turner, while his mother left her nursing occupation. He was the eldest of four siblings. In his early years, the family moved around frequently, first to Carnarvon where his father worked as a tradesman, and then to Perth. In Perth, he attended a prominent school and was a very good student. Both of his parents encouraged his inquisitive nature and curious mindset. He completed his preliminary education and went on to earn his M.B.B.S. degree from the University of Western Australia in 1974.


After completing his education, Barry Marshall interned at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre in 1975. Unlike other students who were interested in a medical career, he was more interested in pursuing research. In 1978, he began his training as a specialist physician and moved to Royal Perth Hospital the following year to gain more experience in cardiology and open heart surgery. It was during his time in the gastroenterology department that he met Dr. Robin Warren, a pathologist interested in gastritis. They worked together on a research project studying the presence of spiral bacteria in association with gastritis. Barry became more and more interested in this research and decided to continue in this field.

In 1982, Barry and his family moved to Port Hedland where he conducted extensive research and writings. He found employment at Fremantle Hospital in Perth, which provided him with a senior registrar position and funded his work. In the same year, he and Dr. Warren performed the initial culture of H. pylori and developed their hypothesis related to the bacterial cause of peptic ulcer and gastric cancer. However, their theory was not accepted by other scientists and doctors who believed that bacteria could not survive in the acidic environment of the stomach. Barry faced hindrances but eventually succeeded in growing helicobacter in the laboratory. He published his findings in the British Medical journal ‘The Lancet’, but it did not gain much attention.

The following year, Barry presented his findings on H. pylori bacteria at an international conference in Brussels, Belgium, but did not receive much response. The attendees mostly concluded that the presence of the bacteria was a mere coincidence. Despite experiencing success in treating human ulcer patients with a combination of bismuth and antibiotics, Barry had not proved that introducing helicobacter into a human subject would cause gastric illness. Due to the lack of subjects, he decided to try the experiment on himself. He ingested a solution of Helicobacter pylori and a week later, symptoms began to emerge. Through this experiment, he was finally able to demonstrate that the bacterium causes peptic ulcer. His work started to get noticed and experiments began to be conducted globally to confirm his findings.

In 1986, Barry was called to the US to work as a Research Fellow and Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia. He established the International Research Foundation for Helicobacter and Intestinal Immunology in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1996, he was named Professor of Research in Internal Medicine at Virginia and the United States Food and Drug Administration officially approved a course of treatment for peptic ulcer disease consistent with his research. He later returned to Australia and took up the position of Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Western Australia. He continues his research related to H. pylori and runs the H. pylori Research Laboratory at UWA.

Awards & Achievements

Barry Marshall has received numerous awards for his work on the theory of the bacterial cause of peptic ulcer. He won the Warren Alpert Prize in 1994 and the Australian Medical Association Award and the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1995. He has also received awards such as Canada’s Gairdner International Award, Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Prize, the Netherlands’ Heineken Prize, Australia’s Florey Medal and Centenary Medal, the Buchanan Medal of Britain’s Royal Society, the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Life Sciences, and Japan’s Keio Medical Science Prize. In 2005, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Dr. Robin Warren. He has also been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Oxford.

Personal Life & Legacy

Barry Marshall married Adrienne in 1972 and they have four children together. In the 2011 movie ‘Contagion’, he was mentioned as an inspiration for a scientific researcher.

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