Late Distinguished Fellows of the Society

This page provides information about past Distinguished Fellows of the Society:

Professor Gavin Brown AO FAA CorrFRSE DistFRSN (1942–2010)

Gavin BrownGavin Brown was a distinguished mathematician and educator. He was Inaugural Director of the Royal Institution of Australia after 12 years as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney. His academic career began at the University of Liverpool, where he became a senior lecturer in mathematics. He accepted the Chair of Pure Mathematics at the University of New South Wales in 1975 when he and his family emigrated to Australia. At the University of New South Wales, he held a number of academic administrative posts, including Head of the School of Mathematics, and Dean of the Faculty of Science. In 1992, he became the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Adelaide and later, in 1994, he became Vice-Chancellor. He was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney in 1996.

He authored more than a hundred research papers and was on the editorial board of several international journals. His research areas have been broad, including measure theory and algebraic geometry. He held a Master of Arts degree (1st Class Honours and the Duncan Medal) from the University of St Andrews and a PhD from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Professor Brown's contributions to education and mathematics have been recognised worldwide. He was a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and university administration and mathematics.

In 2006 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to tertiary education in Australia and internationally as an advocate for excellence and through the establishment of strategic links with overseas institutions, and to mathematical research. Professor Brown also received the Royal Society of New South Wales Medal.

Professor Brown died in December 2010.

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Professor David Craig AO FRS FAA DistFRSN (1919–2015)

David CraigDavid Parker Craig was a distinguished chemist. His career began with his appointment as Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Sydney in 1952. In 1956 he was appointed Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at University College London. He returned to Australia in 1967 to begin his long association with the Australian National University. In that year he was appointed Professor of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, in which role he continued until 1984. During this time he was Dean of the Research School of Chemistry twice, from 1970-1973 and from 1977-1981. He was an Executive Member of the CSIRO from 1980 to 1985, when he was given the title of Emeritus Professor by the Australian National University. David Craig's research work was in several fields but was especially pioneering in the then new and very difficult field of excitons in molecular crystals. He also did important work in the field of molecular quantum electrodynamics. In 1985 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. He was Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry (London), a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, serving as President from 1990 to 1994. He was awarded Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from the University of Sydney and Honorary Doctor of Chemistry from the University of Bologna.

Professor Craig died in July 2015.

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Emeritus Professor Noel Hush AO DSc FRS FNAS FAA FRACI DistFRSN (1924–2019)

fellow hushProfessor Hush was one of Australia's most distinguished and internationally renowned chemists with outstanding achievements in computational and theoretical quantum chemistry. In a long career of academic research, he worked to provide understanding at the basic quantum-theoretical level of chemical properties and reactivities. This was extremely wide-ranging in scope, a continuing theme being the dynamics of electron transfer reactions, from through-molecule electron transport to electrode processes, photosynthesis and most recently, molecular electronics, the ultimate form of nanotechnology. His most renowned achievement was the development, commencing in the 1960’s, of a model for electron transfer, which is often referred to as the Marcus-Hush theory.

In 1972, after 23 years at major universities in the United Kingdom, Professor Hush returned to Australia to establish this country's first academic department devoted to theoretical chemistry – at The University of Sydney. A wide-ranging teaching program was introduced, and a flourishing research program evolved. His work established both Australia and The University of Sydney as major world players in the field. This legacy continued long after his retirement, with Theoretical Chemistry being listed in 2011 as one of 15 research areas at which the University is internationally truly outstanding. Professor Hush himself remained actively engaged in research at the University to the end of his life.

Professor Hush was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, of the Royal Society of London, and to Foreign Membership of the U.S. Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2007 he was awarded the Robert A. Welch Prize, the major United States award for chemical research and second only to the Nobel Prize as an honour in Chemistry, given for the first time for Theoretical Chemistry. Other awards included the David Craig Medal and the Finder Medal of the Australian Academy of Sciences, and the Centenary medal of the Royal Academy of Chemistry (UK).

Professor Hush died in March 2019. An obituary, written by Donald Hector FRSN, a former President of the Royal Society of NSW, has been published in the Society's Journal & Proceedings.

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Professor Jak Kelly FAIP DistFRSN (1928–2012)

Jak KellyJak Kelly was a scientist of international stature in applied physics. He was awarded a Doctor of Science by the University of NSW, was a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Physics and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics in the UK. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Sydney, he joined the CSIRO and later obtained a PhD from the University of Reading in the UK where he solved the problem of measuring the surface tension of molten tungsten and other refractory metals. Following a senior scientific position at the Harwell Atomic Energy Establishment in the UK, he joined the University of New South Wales and established an internationally renowned research centre on ion implantation and material defects. His research included basic discoveries in thermoluminescent dating and the development of new systems of ion beam optics and laser and plasma physics. He jointly invented a photovoltaic solar collector surface, which, at the time, was the world's most efficient and is now in mass production in China. This work was published in some 150 refereed papers and several patents.

Jak Kelly was Chairman of the Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales from 1984 to 1989, and Associate Professor and Head of the School of Physics from 1985 to 1989. On retiring in 1989, he was made a Visiting Professor at University of New South Wales, and in 2004 was made an Honorary Professor at University of Sydney.

Over many years, he contributed much to the Royal Society of NSW: as President, Vice-President and for some time as Editor of its peer-reviewed Journal.

Professor Kelly died in February 2012.

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Professor Lord May of Oxford OM AC Kt FRS DistFRSN CorrFAA FTSE HonFAIB (1936–2020)

Lord MayLord Robert May of Oxford was a pioneering Australian scientist whose work in biology led to the development of chaos theory. He was one of Australia's most accomplished scientists, being elevated to the peerage in 2001, and rising to serve as the Chief Scientific Advisor to the United Kingdom Government (1995–2000), as President of the Royal Society (2000–05) and as  a member of the UK Government's Climate Change Committee, a non-executive director of the UK Defence Science & Technology Laboratories, and Chair of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum.

Born in Sydney on 8 January 1936, he completed his PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Sydney in 1959, before taking a lectureship in applied mathematics at Harvard University (1959–61), subsequently returning to the University of Sydney in 1962 where he was appointed to a Chair in Theoretical Physics, in 1969, at the age of 33. His career then took him to Princeton where, as Professor of Zoology, he made pioneering advances during the 1970s and 1980s in the field of population biology through the application of advanced mathematical techniques. He played a key role in the development of the field of theoretical ecology, subsequently applying these methods to the study of disease and biodiversity. From 1988 to 1995 he held a Royal Society Research Professorship at Imperial College and the University of Oxford, where he became a Fellow of Merton College.

He was awarded a Knighthood in 1996 and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1998, both for “services to science” In 2001, he was one made of the first 15 Life Peers created by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, while in 2002, Her Majesty The Queen appointed him to the Order of Merit—only the ninth Australian in its 100-year history.

His many honours included the Royal Swedish Academy’s Crafoord Prize; the Swiss-Italian Balzan Prize; and the Japanese Blue Planet Prize. He was a Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, an Overseas Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and several other Academies and Learned Societies in the UK, USA and Australia, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. In 2007, he received the Royal Society's Copley Medal, its oldest (1731) and most prestigious award, given annually for “outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science”.

Lord May died at the age of 84 on 28 April 2020.

Tributes to the passing of a truly gifted polymath, and further insights into the outstanding intellect of Lord Robert May, whose achievements spanned biology, physics, and public policy, can be found in:

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