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Ann Veronica Moyal (1926–2019)

by Patricia Clarke

from ISAA National Newsletter

Ann Moyal, 2009

Ann Moyal, 2009

ADB Archives

Ann Moyal was born Ann Veronica Hurley at Northbridge, Sydney, on 23 February 1926. After graduating BA Hons from University of Sydney in 1946 she was awarded a scholarship to London University. In 1954 she became research assistant to Lord Beaverbrook working on his book Men and Power 1917-1918 published in 1956. After a second short marriage in 1957, she returned to Australia in 1958 and became the founding Assistant Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography. In 1962 she married mathematician J.E. (Joe) Moyal and lived in the United States for some years. During the 1960s and 1970s, working independently, she established herself as a historian of science and technology and was appointed foundation director of the Science Policy Research Centre at Griffith University, Brisbane, resigning in 1979. She was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1993 for her ‘contribution to the history of science and technology especially the writing of its history’, elected an Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Humanities in 1997 and awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001. In 2003 the ANU awarded her a LittD and in 2007 she received a Hon. D Phil. from the University of Sydney.

Ann’s books include her history of telecommunications Clear across Australia (1984) and A Bright and Savage Land (1986) on scientists in colonial Australia; her autobiographical works, Breakfast with Beaverbrook (1995) and A Woman of Influence (2014); her publications on Australian fauna, Platypus (2001) and Koala (2008) and her biographies: The Web of Science on pioneer geologist W.B. Clarke (2003): journalist and historian Alan Moorehead: A re-discovery (2005) and Maverick Mathematician on J.E. Moyal (2006). She also recorded well over 30 oral interviews mainly of scientists for the National Library of Australia. Her last publication was an article in the Journal and Proceedings Royal Society of New South Wales: Ann Moyal with Robert Marks, ‘The scientists and Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in nineteenth-century Australia: A re-evaluation’ (Vol. 152, No. I, June 2019, pp. 5-21). She remained active in research and writing until about three weeks before her death.

I first met Ann Moyal when we were both awarded National Library fellowships in 1993. This coincided with the period when Ann was seized with the idea of what she often referred to as an ‘alternative academy’, a band of scholars working on serious research subjects in isolation from academic institutions who were interested in the idea of independence and dissent. Building on Ann’s inspiration, energy and dedication, in 1993 an interim committee began discussing the aims, ideals and a constitution for an independent scholars’ organisation. The outcome of these meetings was taken to the ‘Against the Grain’ conference held in the National Library of Australia in 1995 at which ISAA was formally constituted. Those of us involved in the early years will always remember those days of discussions, arguments, co-operation and dissension as we progressed towards a draft constitution and later towards a Strategic Plan developed during a two-day meeting at Robertson NSW in March 1999. Apart from her initial vision, Ann’s great gift to the organisation, was her ability to enthuse and activate a wide range of people from many disciplines including, but not confined to historians, scientists, economists, social scientists, anthropologists, journalists, educationists and practitioners from the fields of literature, art and music, through her articulation and publicising of ISAA’s aims. As I said when I spoke about Ann at ISAA’s 2000 Annual General Meeting, at which she retired as inaugural president and was made an honorary member, whenever she was reported in the media or whenever she travelled interstate a surge in new members followed.

Ann remained a pre-eminent member of ISAA always concerned and sometimes critical of its progress through the years and a foremost contributor to its meetings and annual conferences. The last public event at which she spoke was the May 2019 evening meeting of the ACT chapter of ISAA. Her talk promoting the ‘Two cultures’ was enthusiastically supported by members.

As many ISAA members know, Ann Moyal had many other notable achievements during her long life, apart from her role in the founding of ISAA. The notice of her death by the Academy of Humanities which has been circulated to members’ lists many of these achievements and they are also discussed in her autobiographical works, Breakfast with Beaverbrook and A Woman of Influence.

Original publication

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Citation details

Patricia Clarke, 'Moyal, Ann Veronica (1926–2019)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

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