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Anne Penfold Street (1932–2016)

by Diane Donovan

Anne Street, 1996

Anne Street, 1996

photo provided by family

Anne Penfold Street (1932–2016), mathematician, was born in Melbourne on 11 October 1932. She studied at the University of Melbourne and, later, the University of Illinois. Her early interests were in chemistry, graduating with a Master of Science in 1956. Investigations into quantum mechanics and the prediction of properties of new compounds led to a PhD in 1966 in group theory under the supervision of Michio Suzuki in Illinois.  

Anne's interest in group theory laid the foundations for a successful career researching and publishing on combinatorial designs, binary arrays and Ramsey theory. She was appointed to a lectureship in mathematics at the University of Queensland in 1967 and awarded a personal chair in mathematics in 1985. Anne was appointed director of the university’s Centre for Combinatorics, 1990, and later the Centre for Discrete Mathematics and Computing, 2004. She coauthored a seminal text, Combinatorics of Experimental Design (1987), with her daughter Deborah Street.

Anne obtained significant Australian Research Council funding to support an internationally renowned researcher network at the University of Queensland, supporting many postdoctoral researchers and building a strong research environment for the mentoring of her colleagues. She supervised eight PhD students and three MSc by research students.   

The Combinatorial Mathematics Society of Australia (CMSA) was incorporated in 1996 with Anne as the president and she oversaw the establishment of the Australasian Journal of Combinatorics and was editor-in-chief from 1990 to 2001. 

Anne dedicated much of her professional and personal time to the activities of the Australian Mathematics Trust (AMT), working to challenge and to encourage the development of young Australians’ understanding of mathematics and informatics. The importance of Anne’s contribution was acknowledged when she was awarded the 1994 Bernhard H Neumann Award for excellence in mathematics enrichment. 

Her work with the AMT and as president of the Australian Mathematical Olympiad Committee, together with her mentoring of junior colleagues, resulted in her being appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2014 for services to education in mathematics. She has also been honoured by the Australian Mathematical Society, which has instituted the Anne Penfold Street Awards to provide additional financial support to Australian mathematicians travelling abroad. 

Through passion and dedication Anne significantly enhanced Australia’s international reputation and advanced mathematical proficiency. She was just the third woman to be appointed to a chair of mathematics in Australia, and was honoured by the award of a DMath (honoris causa) by the University of Waterloo in 1996. 

Anne died on 28 December 2016, survived by her daughter Deborah Street and a son Anthony Street, and grandchildren Amelia Street and Thomas Wilson.

Original Publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Diane Donovan, 'Street, Anne Penfold (1932–2016)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/street-anne-penfold-33351/text41652, accessed 23 April 2024.

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