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Alison Harcourt was the original woman in STEAM

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Alison Harcourt, who was recognised for her outstanding contributions to research and Australian social and electoral policy in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours, continues to be an engaged maths academic and tutor into her late 80s, this is after a career of prominent, ground breaking work.

In a time when women seem to have disengaged from STEAM subjects Harcourt’s story is inspiring; she was doing STEAM way before the acronym raised its head.

Still working as a tutor at the University of Melbourne, Harcourt (nee Doig) co-defined the branch and bound algorithm with Ailsa Land in the 1960s. The ground-breaking integer linear programming technique is still widely used today.

The 89-year-old is also known for her work as a statistician, including contributions to the Henderson Poverty Line and the amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1984 to introduce the double randomisation method.

AMSI Director, Prof Tim Brown said the legacy of Harcourt’s work would continue to be felt well into the future.

“Alison’s contributions will continue to impact global mathematics and Australia’s social and political systems for generations,” he said.

Brown said the recognition reflected the discipline’s cross-discipline impact on education, research and innovation. 

“Alison’s work is a powerful example of the capacity of mathematics and statistics to transform Australian research, innovation, policy development and society,” he said.

There were/are a lot of prominent women scientists and mathematicians in Australia, they just don’t seem to get much play in the media, several received awards at the Queen’s Birthday Honors ceremony.

AO Division

Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons
Honoured for distinguished service to science education as a leader in quantum and atomic electronics, Michelle is a role model for emerging STEM leaders, particularly women. A long-time friend of the AMSI, she inspired young Australians to keep their doors open with mathematics and statistics with her opening message in the 2018 edition of Maths Adds Careers Guide.

Ms Kathryn Joy Fagg
Recognised for her contributions to business, finance, central banking, logistics, manufacturing and women. Kathryn was a keynote speaker at AMSI’s inaugural APR.Intern Women in STEM event in 2018.

AM Division

Ms Marita Cheng
Recognised for her significant service to science, technology and robotics, Marita featured in the 2018 AMSI Choose Maths Careers campaign. This has seen her story shared in classrooms nationally to inspire new generations to maximise their opportunities with mathematics and statistics.


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