Here I will simply mention one aspect of his work which is particularly pertinent to the interests of FFF. I refer to it as his panoramic vision. There are two facets to this.
First, Tony liked to discuss human health against the background of the story of life on Earth
and our own evolutionary history. The medical profession has been slow to wake up to the
fact that this biohistorical perspective is essential for the proper understanding of issues of
human health in the modern world.
The second characteristic of Tony’s panoramic approach was his transdisciplinarity. The
evolution of academic culture over the past couple of centuries has led to a situation in
which different groups of scholars focus on different aspects of the total situation – giving
rise to a range of so-called academic disciplines. Attempts to study the system as a whole
are often met with disdain from specialists in conventional disciplines. Tony defied this
academic tradition. He recognised that the kind of understanding we need for making
wise decisions requires knowledge of the interplay between the different parts of the total
system. He drew attention to the crucial links between the health and wellbeing of human
populations and the health of the living systems around us. Climate change is at present the
most critical illustration of this principle.
I would also like to say that Tony’s wise counsel, and especially his encouragement, have
meant a great deal to me personally. They made a big difference and helped me to keep on
FFF owes so much to Tony McMichael. He has been a pillar of strength in our midst, and his
legacy will continue to inspire us as we move forward.
For more tributes, go to http://news.anu.edu.au/2014/09/30/vale-emeritus-professor-tony-mcmichael/