Peter Doherty, who early in his career aspired to become a "country vet," earned distinction as one of the world’s premier immunologists after he and colleague Rolf Zinkernagel discovered why T cells were able to detect and attack only infected cells, leaving healthy cells completely intact. He shared a Nobel Prize in Medicine with Zinkernagel in 1996 as a result of this research.
Doherty was born in Queensland, Australia. He attended the University of Queensland, where he pursued a career in veterinary medicine. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1962, and his master’s degree in 1966. He completed his Ph.D. in animal pathology in 1970 at the University of Edinburgh. After serving a term as a veterinary officer at Brisbane’s Animal Research Institute (1963-67), Doherty worked as a scientific officer with the department of experimental pathology at the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh. In 1972, he received a research fellowship in the microbiology department of the John Curtain School of Medical Research, part of the Australian National University in Canberra.
Since 1988, Doherty has served as chairman of the department of immunology at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He has also led the department of experimental pathology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (1982-88) and served on the faculty at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pa. (1975-82). He was named Australian of the Year in 1997.