William James Peacock was born at Leura, NSW, on 14 December 1937. He graduated BSc (First-Class Honours), University of Sydney in 1958 and PhD from University of Sydney in 1963. In 1963-64, he was a postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biology, University of Oregon and joined the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry as a Senior Research Scientist in 1965.

He had an outstanding career at CSIRO being promoted to the level of Chief Research Scientist in 1977. He was Chief of the Division of Plant Industry for 26 years (1978-2003) and a CSIRO Fellow and Chair of the Office of the Chief Executive Science team from 2004.

He was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), the nation’s highest honour, in 1994 and was Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2008.

Dr Peacock has made an outstanding contribution to Australian science through his: original research, science policy and administration science education interactions with industry. His commitment to science, to CSIRO and his belief in science and its benefits for industry and society have been compelling. He was a visionary leader and his commitment to both fundamental science and to industry-partnered science ensured CSIRO Plant Industry is one of the top plant research institutes in the world. His laboratory pioneered molecular biology techniques in Australian plant science. This included the first isolation of a plant transposable element, the isolation of stress protection genes and the demonstration of genetic and epigenetic controls of flowering in Arabidopsis and cereals. Dr Peacock’s activities, at the interface between science and modern agribusiness, have resulted in the very successful commercial uptake of genetically modified cotton in Australia as well as marketing in USA.

Related achievements:

  • 1999 – 2003 Board Member, Australian Cotton CRC.
  • 2002 Director, Cotton Research and Development Corporation.
  • CSIRO Medals 2005 and 1989 Lifetime Achievement.