The School of Physics and the Physics Foundation hosted a special event to unveil a portrait of Emeritus Professor Anne Green, the first female physics PhD student and later, the first female Head of the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.
The portrait will be placed alongside those of Professor Harry Messel and philanthropist Sir Adolph Basser in the Physics Foundation Room. The portrait was commissioned as a part of the School’s commitment to recognising the extraordinary contributions of women.
Professor Green was the first female PhD student to be enrolled in the School of Physics, receiving her PhD in 1973, before undertaking research at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany.
After a 15-year break from astronomy (1975-1991), she joined the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, and went on to build a prolific career focused on the ecology and structure of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Professor Green was the Director of the renowned Molonglo Observatory for more than a decade and was appointed as the first female Head of the School of Physics at the University of Sydney in 2007. She was President of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) from 2003 to 2005, inaugural co-Chair of the Women in Astronomy Working Group of the International Astronomical Union, and Chair and Director of Astronomy Australia Ltd for several years.
“It is a great honour to have my portrait hung in the same room as Professor Harry Messel,” Professor Green said, having been inspired to study science after viewing his televised Summer Science School programs, an initiative Professor Messel began while he was Head of the School of Physics.
The portrait, a stylised work by acclaimed, Archibald Prize-winning artist Yvette Coppersmith, captures Professor Green’s intelligence and style in a modern aesthetic. Abstract shapes surround the central figure of Professor Green, seated and enveloped in a striking white jacket.
Coppersmith said that she was driven by the wide-ranging conversations she shared with Professor Green, covering everything from “the measurement of gravitational waves, to travel, moving house and gold eye shadow.”
Coppersmith believes that science and art are intrinsic parts of the human experience.
“I think the role of science in facilitating our understanding of the world, and that of art in understanding an interpersonal, emotional, social, or political world play a large role in shaping human consciousness,” she said.
The portrait’s location is meaningful. Professor Green’s colleague, Professor Tim Bedding, who has also served as Head of the School of Physics, said that for many decades the Physics Foundation Room was the scene of numerous momentous meetings and discussions.
“Those meetings, some led by Anne herself while she was Head, have truly shaped the School of Physics. The fact that her portrait now sits alongside that of Messel, who led the School of Physics for 35 years, is a fantastic tribute to Anne and will serve as a daily reminder of her contributions,” Professor Bedding said.
Among her many successes in her role as Head of School, Professor Green considers the creation of new research laboratories, support for many fellowships and Centres of Excellence and taking the initial steps to creating what is now the Sydney Nanoscience Hub as her greatest accomplishments.
At the centre of these efforts was the desire to provide new opportunities for those within the School. “I was very clear that the greatest assets of the School were its staff and students,” Professor Green said.
Currently President of Sydney’s Physics Foundation, Professor Green is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering, the Royal Society of NSW, the Australian Institute of Physics and the ASA. In 2018, the ASA established the Anne Green Prize to recognise the scientific achievements of mid-career scientists. Amongst all her scientific achievements, Professor Green has also been a passionate advocate and inspiring example for women in science.