Barry Marshall interview, 25 June 2014, 20 August 2014 and 24 September 2014

Dublin Core


Barry Marshall interview, 25 June 2014, 20 August 2014 and 24 September 2014




Professor Barry Marshall, along with Emeritus Professor Robin Warren discovered Helicobacter Pylori as the cause of Stomach Ulcers. He and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for their findings in 2005. During the interview Barry discusses his family background and interest in medicine. He talks of his experiences at UWA as a student, his developing career and ultimately his work in gastroenterology which would lead him to meet Robin Warren and to their initial findings in 1982. He mentions the difficult process of bringing their hypothesis that ‘ulcers were caused by helicobacter pylori’ to world attention.
In 1984, following unsuccessfully trying to infect pigs, Barry proved his theory by self-testing. He drank a mix of Helicobacter, which caused dramatic infection within a few days. It would be 20 years before both he and Robin Warren would be awarded the ultimate prize for their discovery, The Nobel Prize. Barry talks of the years of gradual world recognition leading up to 2005 and being awarded the Nobel Prize; including his continued career and work in America being awarded the Warren Alpert Prize, The Paul Ehrlich Medal and The Florey medal among others. In looking at his education and career and awards to date, Barry speaks of what it means to him to be a Nobel Laureate. He looks at the University of WA and its place in the world and how he sees it as an institution of learning on the world stage.


Marshall, Barry


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Barry Marshall


Interview 1: 1 hour, 20 minutes, 26 seconds
Interview 2: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 43 seconds
Interview 3: 1 hour, 39 minutes, 7 seconds
Total: 4 hours, 10 minutes, 16 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
Barry James Marshall 1951 in Kalgoorlie hospital. Background information. Parents history. Bob and Dianne Marshall. Parents and grandparents marry young. Bellman at the Railway Hotel. Mother origins in Victoria. Brains come from mothers side. Fathers background. Stolen generation of white people.
Parents, father, mother
Railway Hotel in Kalgoorlie was an exciting place. Winning the lotteries and the coming of the war. Grandmother and father buy a hotel. Mother is in Gwalia. Father was a rebel during the war. Father has a paper round. Father makes more money than most adults. Father gets in trouble with the law. Father goes on work release.
Father, mother, hotel
Father ends up in Christian Brothers school. Father in Kalgoorlie and works in the railway yards. Rationing associated with housing. Grandfather comes up the hard way.
Earliest memories of childhood. Memories of Kalgoorlie. Memories of going to Rum jungle. Living in Carnarvon. Being exposed to whaling and brothers health issues. Sheep slaughtering. Impressions of technology. Fremantle and Kalgoorlie. Fathers hotels in Kalgoorlie. Coming back to Perth and building a house in Scarborough.
Childhood, sheep, Fremantle Kalgoorlie

Track 2
Fremantle was the end of the earth. Schooling in Kalgoorlie. Neighbours were an escaped Nazi. Learning to read. Being the top of the class. Other childhood memories of Kalgoorlie. Making money and memories of the horse races in Kalgoorlie.
Kalgoorlie, money
Childhood of books and new technology. Childhood games and Guy Fawkes night. Loving school. Learning to respect your elders. Germs and infectious diseases at school. Mothers nursing.
Books, new technology, nurse
New jobs in Perth. Moving to Scarborough. Building the family house. There was always someone better at school. Aspirations at school. Inquisitive. Thoughts of career. Sickness and reading.
School, reading
Hungering after books. Reading manuals and Encyclopaedias and nursing books. Reading bout disease and medicine. Penicillin and antibiotics. Hygiene at the toilets at school and disease at school. Paranoid about hell and sin. Being well behaved.
Hygiene, antibiotics, penicillin
Primary school and high school. Science books and Nobel laureates. Robin warren. Memories of being inspired to be a doctor. University aptitude test and Winthrop hall. Extended medical school at UWA. Dick Joskie* sees something in Marshall.
University, Dick Joskie, Winthrop hall
Reputation of University of WA. Memories of Curtin university. Faculty of engineering and medicine. Interesting places at UWA. Engineering. Computing at Physics.
Reputation of UWA, medicine
Working out how to break a high stressed beam. Wanting to prove people wrong. Transition from school to UWA. Struggling with maths at UWA. High level studies at UWA. Surviving the first year at UWA. Getting a scholarship for medicine. Completion at UWA.
Scholarship, struggling
Studying intently at UWA. Being inspired to work at UWA. Brian Stokes. Lesley Callor*. Fabulous people at UWA. Don Watts* is a character. Physics and Chemistry was heaven. Mathematics was a little harder.
Don watts, Brian Stokes, Lesley Callor
Student and senior lecturers. Medical school. Understand and learning. Examples of a T test. Memories of the left wing communists. Sue Boyd*. Memories of Prosh. Arts students were at the coffee shops.
Student, senior lecturer, medical school
Learning anatomy from books. Not learning Botany and taxonomy. Focus on the hard core sciences. Writing research papers and test. Not involved in guild. Involved in the university regiment. Camps and training. Teaching junior recruits. Memories of the army. and memories of being able to teach.
Learning from books, research papers, university regiment
Reputation and pride of being at UWA. Being as good as you could get. People come to WA from oxford and Cambridge. Professor Ten Seldan.* expansion of medical school. Concerns of passing the course. Competition at UWA. Lots of practical classes. Academics working hard at UWA.
Ten Seldan, competition, medical school
Interests in gastroenterology. Barry Marshall and Prosh day. Not aware of hepatitis and blood squirting around at Prosh day. Medical school and specialising. Straight forward medicine.
Prosh, gastroenterology
Memories of surgery. Really challenging parts of surgery. Surgery was like plumbing. Skills of knowing when someone is unwell or is getting better. Thoughts of future interests.
Surgery, skills, interests
General surgery and brain stokes. Neurosurgery. Intensive internal medicine. Working hard and studying. Exciting prospects and getting interested in research. Not fitting in well with the academic life.
Neurosurgery, research, not fitting in

Interview 2

Track 1
Each year trying to do research. surgery and obstetrics. Taking to clinical jobs. Case reports. Heat stroke in marathon runners. Gastroenterology and Robin Warren. Tom Waters. Robin spots bacteria on biopsies. Meeting Robin Warren.
Research project, Robin Warren, Tom Waters*
Serious pathologist. Robin happy to discuss bacteria. Stomach sterile and campylobacter. Looking at biopsies. Different strains and campylobacter. Chickens and campylobacter. Bacteria had been seen in the past. Thinking about the stomach and ulcers. Interesting research . Proving the medicals wrong. Robin finds more and more bacteria. Bacteria cant exist. Correct logic.
Campylobacter, Bacteria, stomach and ulcers, Robin finds bacteria. Bacteria cant exist
Looking at the records and investigating patients. Stress associated with bacteria. Gastritis. National library of medicine literary search. Classifying gastritis. Descriptions of bacteria throughout history. People are ignoring the bacteria. The technology and biopsies. Culturing the bacteria. Failure to culture bacteria in 1981.
Gastritis, ignoring the bacteria, biopsies, culturing the bacteria
Doing a proper study of 100 people. Questionnaires and research money. Support. Talking about the bacteria. Dr Lee. Getting closer to a successful culture. Studying 100 patients. Data and coding of findings and the study.
Studying 100 patients, data, coding of findings, study, Dr Lee
Culturing the bacteria. Bacteria in the Petri dish are different. Everyone who has an ulcers and bacteria. Studying the literature and information of the stomach. Duodenal ulcers. Hypothesis of a duodenal ulcer. Fitting data together and the cause of peptic ulcers. Presenting to the case rounds in Port Hedland. Alan Eggleston the senator.
Culturing the bacteria, ulcers and bacteria, Duodenal ulcers, Alan Eggleston*
Writing letters to the academics. Writing to the director of health Lawson Holman*. Writing an abstract for the college meeting. Sceptics of the hypothesis. Biopsy of gastritis. Len Matts.* bacteria grows in scopes. Pseudo minus. Weibo Fung, Chinese gastroenterologists. Discover of Helicobacter. Other people have skimmed over the bacteria and never made the discovery.
Lawson Holman*, sceptics, gastritis, Len Matts,* Pseudo minus, Weibo Fung*
Wanting to go on with studying. John Pearman*. Ulcers one of the most charismatic disease. Microbiologists are interested in bacteria. The Mayo Clinic Ian Hislop*. D ulcers and gastritis. Respecting scientific technique. Getting work on campylobacter in Fremantle hospital 1983. Peter Smith.
John Peerman, Ian Hislop, Peter Smith
Hitting the ground running. Submitted applications to tie up the loose ends. Writing an abstract for the Australian College of Gastroenterology. Finding a bacteria in the stomach was a complete yawn. Doing study with Ian Hislop*. Bismuth, antimony, arsenic. Curing bacteria with heavy metal. Bismuth had been used on stomach bacteria in the past.
Ian Hislop, Bismuth, curing bacteria
Maximising value with Robin warren. Deciding to publish together. Writing two letters. Robin knows how important the discoveries are going to be. Publishing of theory and reviewers of theory. Cannot mention that bacteria causes ulcers. Barry and the study of patients. The junior partner.
Robin Warren, Publishing of theory, bacteria causes ulcers, The junior partner
Failing at the Australian conference and presenting in the Brussels campylobacter conference. David McGechie*. Calling Martin Skirrow world campylobacter expert. Writing an abstract and getting funding from Fremantle Hospital.
David McGechie, Calling Martin Skirrow

Track 2
Off to Brussels. Fremantle was the right launching pad for Brussels. Travel grant on the cv. People were entreprenrial. Harvy Turner. Practicing the presentation. The next winner of the Americas cup Australia II. Marshall Blazer and ulcers cause all peptic ulcers. Martin Skirrow in Worcester*.
Harvey Turner, Marshall Blazer, peptic ulcers, Martin Skirrow
Culturing the bacteria. Describing gastritis and bacteria. Guido Tricot*. Identifying the bacteria. People going crazy at the Amsterdam hospital. Discovering bismuth as cure. Gasprocardis* are excited. People switching into Helicobacter. Many people make their career out of Helicobacter.
Guido Tricot, Gisprocardis
Naming of the bacteria. Campylobacter pyloridis. Winning the grand final and being heroes. Nothing better than you could do. Thinking of getting a Nobel prize. Bad luck. Projecting career and going to America. Working at Fremantle. Skirrow helps publication. Getting to know David Sharp*.
David Sharp, Skirrow, heroes
Publishing the paper in the lancet. Ian Munroe*. Martin Skirrow going gang busters and independent reviewer. Editing the paper to publish. Being published in the Lancet*.
Publishing, lancet, Skirrow

Interview 3

Track 1
Publication in the Lancet. NHMRC funding. Modest funding request. International recognition. People testing out the theory. People make the same findings. Result of publication in the lancet.
Publication in the Lancet, NHMRC funding, modest funding request, International recognition
1984 Final year of working in Fremantle hospital. Great results. Proving a pathogen. Trying to infect piglets. Problems and criticism. Decision to do a self experiment. Koch’s postulates. Getting nowhere with grants. Results of Bismuth* and Metronidazole. Secret combination. Getting over confident about curing Helicobacter.
Pathogen, self experiment, Koch’s postulates, Bismuth* and Metronidazole, curing Helicobacter
Treatment results on patients. Proving the pathogen. Percentage of people with Helicobacter. Brewing up for a self experiment. Drinking the mix of bugs. Results of taking the mixture. Stomach becomes paralysed and nausea and vomiting. Bacteria in the biopsies.
Treatment, Bacteria in the biopsies.
Robin warren is infected with Helicobacte Pylori. Memories of the experiment. Mother comments of bad breath. Results of endoscopy. Telling wife about the experiment.
Results, experiment
Having endoscopy to find results and taking antibiotics. End of experiment. Self cured. Medical Journal of Australia a re disappointed. Campylobacter Pyloridus and gastro duodenal disease. Clinical finding from 1983-4. An attempt to fulfil Koch’s postulates for HB P.
Self cured, Campylobacter Pyloridus and gastro duodenal disease. Clinical finding from 1983-4. An attempt to fulfil Koch’s postulates for Helicobacter Pylori
John Armstrong’s view of the paper An attempt to fulfil Koch’s postulates for HB P. historic evidence of gastritis and HB. William Mosley’s* book on of gastritis. Looking at all the medical books.
John Armstrong
Searching through the literature for proof of infection with Helicobacter Pylori. Rewriting the results An attempt to fulfil Koch’s postulates for Helicobacter Pylori. Ian Hislop’s* opposition to the theory. Lancet response to the paper in the Medical Journal of Australia. journal very highly sited. People following up of the findings.
Rewriting, Ian Hislop’s*, findings.
Procter and Gamble - Norwich. Peptobismol. Speaking in America and about bacteria. Getting job offers from America. Lecturing in Stanford and Dallas Texas.
Procter and Gamble, Peptobismol
Comparing Tagamed and Zantac. The new paradigm. Harvey Turner and breath test. Funded by NHMRC. Working back with Robin Warren and Stuart Goodwin. Getting requests to write for journals. Job offer and Procter* and gamble. Licensing patents.
Comparing Tagamed, Zantac, Harvey Turner, NHMRC, Robin Warren, Stuart Goodwin
Talking about going to America in 1986. Decade of development. Gaining Warren Alpert Prize. 1984 Australian findings. Presenting papers and talking to people. Result being tested around the world. Treating patients with Anti Biotics in Perth.
Warren Alpert Prize
Working on people for a study. Blood test for ulcers. Going to a conference in America. Being funded by NHMRC. Fake process of the double blind study. Getting result of double blind study. Proof that the antibiotics work. 4 years where nothing much happens in clinical work.
Blood test double blind study. Getting result of double blind study, proof

Track 2
1998 everyone was against Marshall. 1988 and 1991 criticised by the sceptics. Pure double blind study Bismuth Tagamed Zantac, Metronidazole. Curing most of the helicobacter patients. Published in the new English journal. Gold standard credibility. Massachusetts medical society. Funded by proctor and gamble. Advertising scams. Peptobismol kills bacteria. Little articles in the popular press. People write to Warren and Marshall for advice. Thousands of people cured in the US. 1993 things are getting out of control consensus conference in 1994.
The process does take a long time. generic medications. Lack of resources. Billion drug companies selling ulcer treatments. Smith, Kline and French. Competing with acid blockers. Promotional research. Tagamed. Is Zantac 5% better than Tagamed. The cure rate. Taking tablets for ulcer treatment. People shying away from helicobacter. Not mentioning helicobacter treatment. Doctors don’t hear about the new paradigm that is being swamped.
No research into helicobacter. Talking about Warren alpert prize. Baker award lecture. The Paul Ehrlich Medal. The Florey Medal. Not understanding what was going on. Consensus conference and the treatment of helicobacter. The Ulcer Wars documentary and the word is getting out. The in thing. The junior guys move up through the ranks.
Breath test company and academic industry. Supplementing income with lecturing. Getting the word out to 1000s of patients. Sacrificing career developments. Being interviewed by CNN but no one has heard of it. Important new discovery and the Warren Alpert award. What does it mean to het a prize. A prize CV. Nominating for the Nobel prize.
Deciding to get the prize in 1986. Nothing has happened in 10 years. People nominate for the Nobel prize. Strain in America. Moving to Perth. Awarded the AMA Hippocratic award. The Florey medal from the scientific community is a great honour.
Thoughts and rumours for the NP. Having dinner each year for the Nobel Prize day each time. 2005 and Robin warren is called. Being called personally. Getting the news. Doing interviews around the world for 5 hours.
All hell breaks lose. Alan Robson and the hero of the university. The PM Science prize. Doing TV and press. Robin Williams Norman swan and Dr Carl. Memories of the award ceremony. 10 of December prize giving.
Scientific and media events. Giving speech and attending the king. The massive banquet. The speech is an issue. Stressful being the Nobel laureate. Meeting the king. Robin warren has medical issues and is taken to hospital.
Getting prizes to lead up to the award. The Nobel committee. Being recognised all around the world. The Buchannan Medal* and The Royal Society. Descent about the Nobel. How the Nobel has changed Marshalls life. Empowered by the Nobel Prize. Not worried about rejection. Seeing the value. Valuable to have a Nobel prize winner in you state and institutions. Validating research.
The Marshall centre is set up. Ondek.* maintaining the brand. Experts in different fields. NP will still be valued. Maintaining the prestige of the NP. Starting up a company relating to Helicobacter. Reason on evolution for HB. Hypo allergy. HB disappearing from western society. Research into pro-biotics. The answer to use bacteria. HB is hard to transmit. Change of lifestyle. Better of with HB in childhood.
Super vaccine for HIV and Bird flu. The office of the NL attracting attention to UWA. K Laurie at the office of the NL. 3 international invitations ever week. Writing to the PM and the Premier. Burnet* Fellowship at UWA and looking at work and career at UWA. Looking back at experience. A great spirit at UWA an Ivy league university. Helping to continue with becoming the top 50. Contributing to the university ratings.
End of interview



Marshall, Barry, “Barry Marshall interview, 25 June 2014, 20 August 2014 and 24 September 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,