Robin Warren interview, 2 July 2014 and 8 July 2014

Dublin Core


Robin Warren interview, 2 July 2014 and 8 July 2014




Robin Warren was born in 1937, Adelaide, South Australia. He matriculated in 1954, gaining a Common-wealth scholarship and obtaining entry to the Medical School of the Adelaide University in 1955. Following university he became Registrar in Pathology for training in morbid anatomy and histopathology. He hoped to obtain a position as pathologist at Port Moresby before being posted to Perth WA in 1968 by Professor Rolf ten Seldam, the Professor of Pathology at the University of Western Australia and the Royal Perth Hospital.
During the 1970’s he developed an interest in the new gastric biopsies that were becoming frequent. In 1979, on his 42nd birthday, he noticed bacteria growing on the surface of a gastric biopsy. From then on, Robin spent much of his spare time centred on the study of these bacteria. Over the next two years, he collected numerous examples and showed that they were usually related to chronic gastritis.
With Barry Marshall he would develop a theory and prove that the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, caused stomach ulcers. He also helped developed a breath test for detecting H. pylori in ulcer patients
Their findings were met largely with disbelief. But after initial publications in 1983–1984, a wealth of further studies appeared, most of them apparently just repeating their work, with similar results. Still most support for their work came from patients and GPs dealing with gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Gradually their work gained world wide acceptance and resulted in both Robin Warren and Barry Marshall being awarded a Nobel Prize in 2005.


Warren, Robin


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Robin Warren


Interview 1: 53 minutes, 39 minutes
Interview 2: 54 minutes, 54 seconds
Total: 1 hour, 48 minutes, 33 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

John Robin Warren 1937. Early information background. Father 1840 mother 1836 to Adelaide. Robins early recollections. Inspiration and history of medical involvement. Engrossed in reading.
Background, inspiration
Oxford junior encyclopaedia. Interest in astronomy. Hobby of photography. Box brownie developing own films. Enjoying looking through microscopes. Health as a teenager.
Reading, health
Parents encourage study. Coming to be interested in an academic career. Education encouraged with commonwealth scholarships. Thoughts of studying medicine. Fascinated in medical history.
Study, medicine
Original medical discoveries made. Loving going to university. Serious student enjoying reading. Difficult to do the things that you have to do. First year at university was an extension of high school. Matriculation.
University, matriculation
Western Australians come to Adelaide to study. Memories of university. University has expanded and more discoveries. Expensive medical study and expensive technology. Technologies help advancements in career.
Career, technologies, university
Interested in working PNG. Robin Cooke was the pathologist at the time. Department of Foreign Affairs takes a long time to make things happen. Memories of ten Seldam and Doug Hicks talking at Royal Melbourne hospital. Plans of coming to Perth. Nobody argues with Rolf [ten Seldam].
Rolf ten Seldam, Perth
The reputation of UWA and Royal Perth hospital. Melbourne location and connections to the world. Isolation. People in Perth had their own little thing. Royal Perth Hospital and QE2 Hospital were not connected. Talking to people at the university.
UWA, Pathology, Royal Perth Hospital
Memories of the medical school. University of Melbourne compared to UWA. Research pathology. A clinical pathology. Interest in Histopathology. Interest in haematology.
Haematology, pathology, UWA
Peth and general pathology. Areas of histopathology. Interest in Gastro pathology. Difficult to study. Endoscopy and surgical specimens. The flexible endoscope. Whitehead describes the histology of the stomach.
Histopathology, gastro pathology, flexible endoscope
Discovery of the helicobacter. Fact that bacteria didn’t grow in the stomach. Description of bacteria growth in a layer of stomach mucus. Looking at connection to gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcers.
Duodenal ulcers, helicobacter
Looking at the blue line. Other colleagues could not see bacteria. Microbiology an seeing bacteria in the tissue. Staining bacteria to observe them. Organisms stained with silver and acid fast stains. Bacilli otherwise invisible.
Bacilli, microbiology, bacteria
No one believes that bacteria exists. Just something different. Looking for bacteria finding them easily. Spiral shapes bacteria. Growing in palisades. 30% - 40% of biopsies have bacteria. Stumbling across the bacteria. Interest in photography helps.
Taking a picture and discovery. Interest in photography and Microbiology - Everything comes together at that time.

Interview 2

00:00:00 meeting Barry Marshall. First professional who was interested in work. Barry wasn’t particularly interested. Looking at normal gastric mucosa. Biopsies from the gastric antrum. Showing the changes in information.
Barry Mashall
Barry becomes very interested in discoveries. Cause of ulcer. No one believes robin warren. Studies undertaken in 1982. 100 Patients are biopsied. Symptoms of gastric problems. Symptoms related to ulcers.
Symptoms, ulcer, studies
Patients have biopsies. Clinical findings for duodenal ulcers. Bacteria closely related to Duodenal Ulcers. Gastric infection and d ulcers. The result and response to ulcers. Front page of the New York Times and spread of the theory.
Bacteria, gastric infection, New York Times
Barry Marshall come up with idea for treatment. General public and acid inhibiters. Treatment for ulcers. Specialist protect their theories. Specialist in the royal hospital oppose ideas. GPs are interest. Recognition. Treatment of the ulcer and infection.
Barry Marshall, recognition, treatment
Opposition and disbelief. The rest of the world and ultimate ratification of Robin Warren and Barry Marshall findings. Research work in America. People don’t believe findings from WA.
Disbelief, research work
Barry Marshall drinks bacteria. 90% of people are infected by HP. Organisms and out of balance. Comparison to the bubonic plague. Polio virus and spectrum of changes with any virus. A chronic infection and ulcers.
Barry Marshall, virus, chronic infection
Being infected and treatment with antibiotics. Barry Marshall drinks a huge does of bacteria. Nasty active virus results. The response to the experiment.
Barry Marshall
Recognition result slowly from the beginning. A hit at Brussels conference in 1983. Trouble with publishing papers in The Lancet. Getting peer reviews. Not having any peers at the time. Campylo *and Vibrio* bacteria. Getting letters and papers published. Two paradigm shifts in the paper. Bacteria are causing ulcers.
Campylo Bacteria, ulcers, publications
The most published paper in the world. Trying to prove findings wrong. Correct cure for ulcers is to cure helicobacter. Goodwin, Surveyor and Morris*. Memories of Goodwin and the new type of bacteria. Ivor Surveyor, Barry Mashall and radio isotopes.
Goodwin, Surveyor, Morris*, Barry Mashall , radio isotopes
Beginning of the breath test. Memories of Morris and a mild gastritis. Koch postulate and findings of a brilliant microbiologist. Koch Postulates. Isolated bacteria and cause of disease.
Koch Postulates, breath test
Successful treatment of ulcer. Speaking invitations and world travel. Nobel Prize winners are in demand. 1994 Foundation prize for Harvard medical school* and other awards received. Best gifts.
Awards, Foundation prize Harvard Medical School
Memories of the build up to Nobel Prize. Guest speaker in the late 90s. Taking time off and retirement. Barry has kept on going.
Nobel Prize, Barry Marshall
Memories of the Nobel Prize in 2005. Having dinner on the night of the nomination. Having an idea that the Nobel Prize was on the cards. Success of treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers. Occasional surgical experiments.
Duodenal ulcers, treatment, experiments
A telephone call while having dinner at the old swan brewery. Thing go crazy and not possible to have dinner. Leaning on a fence that isn’t a fence. Memories of the award ceremony.



Warren, Robin , “Robin Warren interview, 2 July 2014 and 8 July 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,