Maxwell Bennett is Professor of Neuroscience, holds the first University Chair for ‘research recognized internationally to be of exceptional distinction’ and is an Adjunct Professor of Neuropsychiatry.
He graduated in Electrical Engineering and did his doctoral research in Zoology at Melbourne University. He then turned to the brain sciences and was appointed to a Personal Chair at Sydney University, after the first Personal Chair Lord May, at which time he was awarded the largest personal Centre of Research Excellence by the Australian Government.
His over 350 papers are concerned with research on synaptic connections between nerve cells in the brain. This research led to the discovery that novel transmitters exist at synapses, the first to be identified in fifty years, for which he received the major award in biology and medicine in Australia, the Macfarlane Burnet Medal of the Academy of Sciences. His subsequent discovery that molecules exist at synapses which guide their reformation after nerve injury was recognized by an invitation to give the opening Plenary Lecture to the World Congress of Neuroscience in 1996.
Bennett's research then showed that there are silent synapses, in which nerve terminals are physically present but do not release transmitters. This has had important implications for changes in the brain responsible for learning and memory and was followed by appointment in 2000 as an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).
Professor Bennett has written eight books concerned with the history and philosophy of the brain and mind, recently with his colleague Peter Hacker, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, Neuroscience and Philosophy, History of Cognitive Neuroscience and most recently his Virginia Woolf and Neuropsychiatry. These have created much interest as indicated, for example, by a recent invitation to give a talk on this subject at the United Nations in New York on the date of 9/11.
Amongst the organizations he has initiated to promote science and brain research are the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (now Scientific Technology Australia), the main lobby group for science and technology in Australia, the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience, as well as Brain and Mind Research Asia/Pacific. Professor Bennett founded the Brain and Mind Research Institute at Sydney ten years ago, and with the raising of over $90 million and five juxtaposed buildings, including the section of a new hospital devoted to diseases of the brain and mind, now has seventeen research professors concerned with the amelioration of these diseases.