Science In Focus: Portraits of Scientists

Press Release         

August 2009

26 August 2009 - 17 January 2010
Room 38a
Admission Free

Two newly acquired collections of photographs of scientists against backgrounds relevant to their pioneering work will form a new display at the National Portrait Gallery. Colour portraits by Anita Corbin and John O'Grady, exhibited for the first time in the United Kingdom, will be shown alongside black and white portraits by Anne-Katrin Purkiss.

The eleven colour photographs on show by husband and wife team, Corbin O'Grady Studio, were commissioned by the British Council in 1989. The scientific pioneers in this series are Joe Farman, John Maynard Smith, Michael Green, César Milstein, Sir James Whyte Black, Donald Eric Broadbent, Sir Michael Atiyah, Robert Edwards, Antony Hewish, Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson and Frederick Sanger. Anita Corbin and John O'Grady have worked together for 25 years and specialise in corporate portraiture for clients such as ICI plc and Boots plc and editorial portraits for the Sunday Times Magazine and the Observer Magazine.

The black and white portraits by Anne-Katrin Purkiss are of Sir Alec Jeffreys, Sir John Brian Pendry, Frances Mary Ashcroft, Sir Tom Blundell, Lord Darzi, Sir Martin Evans, Sir Tim Hunt and Dame Louise Johnson. Purkiss graduated from Leipzig University with a degree in photography and journalism in 1983.  She moved to England in 1984, working for four years at Associated Press, before becoming a freelance photographer.  Her commissions include regular work for government departments and agencies such as the Environment Agency. Her photographs are held in several public collections and her portraits of scientists will also be exhibited by the Julia Margaret Cameron Trust, Isle of Wight in 2010.

This display will celebrate the achievements of scientists from a diverse range of fields.

For example, in the 1980s, Joe Farman's research in Antarctica led to the discovery that emissions from man-made gasses depleted ozone in the air and as a result the Montreal Protocol (1989) was created. Research by Robert Edwards, alongside Patrick Steptoe, perfected in vitro fertilisation (IVF) of the human egg. As a result of this the first ‘test-tube baby' was born in 1978 and over 2000 babies had been created by IVF by the time the portrait on display was taken. Anthony Hewish's studies into radio signals led to the discovery of pulsars, a new classification of stars. The achievements of all the scientists in this display have shaped and impacted the world we live in today.

Notes for Editors

  • Anne-Katrin Purkiss's portraits of scientists will also be exhibited by the Julia Margaret Cameron Trust at Dimbola Lodge, Isle of Wight, from 16 April - 20 May 2010.

For further press information and image requests please contact: Eleanor Macnair, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery Tel: 020 7321 6620 (not for publication) Email:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am - 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am - 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross Recorded information: 020 7312 2463 General information: 020 7306 0055 Website:

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