John Kenneth Raison [1932-1991]

By March 25th, 2011


John Kenneth Raison was born in Sydney on 19 May 1932. After secondary schooling at Hurlstone Agricultural High School, he did a part-time undergraduate degree in Applied Biology at the University of New South Wales (completed in 1959) while working as a trainee industrial chemist with various companies including Meggitt Ltd and Union Carbide (Chemical Division). Following the completion of an Honours degree at UNSW in 1960 he was appointed Experimental Officer at the CSIRO Wheat Research Unit under Michael Tracey.

He took leave without pay to obtain his PhD at the Waite Institute, University of Adelaide in the period 1961-63 with his uncle, the legendary Professor RK Morton. In his tribute to John Raison in the ASBMB Newsletter in May 1991, former colleague Ted McMurchie wrote:

There is no doubt that John’s infectious enthusiasm for biochemistry and his indefatigable approach to his work was greatly boosted by his short professional association with his uncle prior to Professor Morton’s untimely death.

Then followed two postdoctoral fellowships: at CSIRO Division of Plant Industry (1964-65) and the US Department of Agriculture, Seed Protein Pioneering Research Laboratory, New Orleans (1965-66).

In 1967, he was appointed Research Scientist at the Plant Physiology Unit, CSIRO Division of Food Research located at Sydney University. The lab later moved to Macquarie University, Sydney.

In 1968, he spent study leave as a Research Biochemist at the University of California, Riverside, California and in 1979 spent a year at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Plant Biology Division, Stanford University, California.

During his career at CSIRO he was promoted to Principal Research Scientist in 1973, Senior Principal Research Scientist in 1977 and Chief Research Scientist in 1982.

He retired for health reasons on 10 August 1988 and died on 21 March 1991.

His research interests focused on membrane biology with specific reference to the modulation of membrane structure and function by temperature. The aim of this research was to provide a molecular basis for chilling injury in plants and hypothermic shock in warm-blooded animals as well as providing an understanding of the basic mechanisms of membrane changes associated with hibernation. He published a total of 86 papers, 34 as first author.

His appointments and positions included:

1986 – 88

Member Editorial Board of the American Journal of Plant Physiology


Member, Program Committee International Union of Biochemistry Congress, Perth, WA


Member, Program Committee International Botanical Congress, Sydney, NSW

1974 – 88

Member Editorial Board of the Journal of Thermal Biology

1974 – 77

NSW representative on the Council of the Australian Biochemical Society

1972 – 79

Secretary and later Chairman of the CSIRO Biomembrane Committee

In addition, he was convenor of several US-Australia Scientific exchange meetings on membrane biochemistry held at the East/West Centre in Hawaii.

Honours and awards


Rivett Memorial Medal, awarded by the CSIRO Officers Association for outstanding research by an Officer under the age of 40


Campbell Award, American institute of Biological Sciences: for outstanding research in the field of vegetable crops (awarded jointly with Prof J Lyons, Dept Vegetable Crops, University of California, Riverside

1965 – 66

US Academy of Sciences, National Research Council Associateship for his Post-Doctoral studies at USDA laboratories in New Orleans

1961 – 63

Wheat industry Research Council Scholarship for his PhD


  • Raison RL (John’s brother), 2009, Personal communication.