Early life and education
Hetzel graduated in medicine from the University of Adelaide in the 1940s.
He was a Fulbright Research Scholar in the 1950s.
He returned to Adelaide and was employed as Reader and then Michell Professor of Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, University of Adelaide before moving to Monash University as the Foundation Professor of Social and Preventive Medicine. He also held the position of first chief of the CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, Chair of the University of South Australia's Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, and University of South Australia Chancellor 1992–1998,
Hetzel worked in remote areas of Papua New Guinea with the Public Health Department of the then Territory, and his research concluded that the endemic goitre and associated cretinism was attributable to an iodine deficient diet. He also demonstrated that dietary supplementation would entirely prevent these illnesses.
In the 1980s Hetzel, supported by the Australian Agency for International Development, became an international advocate for iodine supplementation, which is now taken for granted with iodinated table salt. This was part of the stimulus for the creation of the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders association, which is funded by various government, non-government and community organisations including the United Nations, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank. It is claimed that iodine supplementation has been achieved in 70% of households worldwide by 2000.
- Pollin Prize for Pediatric Research, 2009
- Prince Mahidol Award from King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
- National Trust as a National Living Treasure, 15 March 2004
- the Clinical Research Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was named in his honour the 'The Basil Hetzel Institute for Medical Research', 2001
- Doctor of the University, University of South Australia, 1999
- RSL Anzac Peace Prize, 1997.
- Companion of the Order of Australia, 1990
- Honorary Professor at the Tianjin Medical University, 1989
- ABC Radio National Nexus In Person Interview with Dr Basil Hetzel 26 March 2004
- Profile on ABC TV Stateline SA 24 October 2003
- The Hetzel Family's Friendship with China on www.china.org.cn
- National Trust List of National Living Treasures