Profile written by Bety Polak
WISENET Journal No. 9, February 1987, p. 8
Diana Dyason, a woman scientist with a distinguished record, recently retired from her position as Reader in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne.
Deakin University last year conferred upon her the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris causa) paying tribute both to her work in establishing the history and philosophy of science as a distinct discipline in Australia and to her contribution to the study of the history of medicine. Though nominally retired, she is at present working, amongst other activities, on a history of women in medicine in Australia.
Graduating M.Sc from Melbourne, her early teaching egperience included the presentation of a general science course to a group of occupational therapists with no scientific knowledge. From this experience, and against a background of heated debate over the lack of science subjects geared to the needs of arts students and the lack of philosophical studies by science students, she played an important role in initiating and establishing the new cross-disciplinary subject, history and philosophy of science. As Senior Lecturer from 1958 and as Reader from 1965, she was in charge of the new department in the discipline at Melbourne University until the first professor was appointed in 1975. She ensured that the University library had the largest collection of history and philosophy of science material in the southern hemisphere, was foundation president of the Australian Association for the History snd Philosophy of Science in 1967 and a founding member of the national committee for the subject established by the Australian Academy of Science.
She believes strongly in the breaking-down of barriers that inhibit the understanding by lay people of science and technological advance. As with her earlier physiotherapy students, she emphasizes the need to eliminate scientific jargon and the importance of clear explanations, applauding recent efforts by ANZAAS organizers to involve the public.
More good journalists with a scientific background could play an important role, as could the manufacturers of appliances.
Dr Dyason believes that the individual must be prepared to stand up and be counted on the important issues of our time - conservation and environment, the nuclear threat. Inevitably this preparedness must be informed.
While not over-optimistic, she believes mankind still has a chance of survival. Her attitude is summed up in her firm statement, 'I think you have to have a damned good go'.
Dr Dyason may have retired, but she is in no way bowing out.