Alfred James (Jim) Pittard was born in Ballarat in 1932. He completed secondary school at the Ballarat Church of England Grammar School in 1949. Pittard then enrolled in a diploma of pharmacy at the Victorian College of Pharmacy (1950-54), where he was apprenticed firstly to Cornell?s Chemist in Ballarat and then a pharmacy in Brighton, Melbourne. After graduation, Pittard worked for a year as a relieving chemist in rural Victoria before enrolling in a bachelor of science at the University of Melbourne (1956-58). He then completed a master?s degree (1959-60), again at the University of Melbourne.
Pittard was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1960, which took him to the University of California, Berkley. A year later, Pittard?s PhD supervisor moved to Yale University, and he followed. Pittard?s PhD degree was awarded from Yale in 1963. He remained in the USA on a US Public Health Services post-doctoral fellowship for another year before returning to Australia. Pittard spent the remainder of his career in the department of microbiology at the University of Melbourne, where he was appointed firstly as a lecturer (1964-66), then senior lecturer (1966-70) and finally professor (1970-1997). Pittard was made professor emeritus at the University of Melbourne upon his retirement in 1998.