Obituary: Beryl Nashar

PIONEER: Professor Beryl Nashar’s achievements opened doors for other women.
PIONEER: Professor Beryl Nashar’s achievements opened doors for other women.






SHE was a pioneer in the field of geology, an outstanding academic who achieved a long list of firsts during a lifetime of accomplishment.

Professor Beryl Nashar, a specialist in petrology and mineralogy, died peacefully in her sleep on May 5. She was 88.

She was the first Australian woman to be awarded a Rotary Foundation Fellowship, which she used to study at Cambridge University.

At the University of Tasmania she became the first Australian to be awarded a PhD in geology from an Australian university.

Initially appointed as a lecturer in geology at Newcastle University College, which was then part of the NSW University of Technology, she later became Foundation Professor of Geology when the University of Newcastle was formed. Four years later, she became the first female dean of science at an Australian university.

Her early research addressed the geology of the Stanhope district in the Hunter Valley.

This was later extended to embrace the mineralogy, geochemistry and genetic relations of the Carboniferous and Permian andesitic associations of eastern NSW, and the conditions of formation of secondary minerals in these andesitic and basic rocks.

Another of her major contributions was to the public sector.

Her expertise was used by universities, local expert committees and boards in the Newcastle area, and by governments in relation to educational institutions and courses.

Born on July 9, 1943, in Maryville, she was the eldest of four children who grew up in Great Depression-era Newcastle.

Professor Nashar was interviewed by Nessy Allen in 2001 for a journal on Australian studies entitled Test Tubes and White Jackets: the Careers of Two Australian Women Scientists.

She told Ms Allen that despite her family’s modest beginnings, all of her siblings went on to succeed professionally.

Professor Nashar said she couldn’t remember when she first became interested in science but did recall enjoying nature study classes during her time at Cardiff Public School.

She did well in primary school, topping every class, ensuring her attendance at Newcastle Girls High School. After completing the Leaving Certificate, Professor Nashar was named first in the state in geology.

She said continuing her studies at the University of Sydney wasn’t necessarily guaranteed.

Professor Nashar was the first of her family to go to university, helped by scholarships, and took her degree in science.

After graduation she worked as a staff demonstrator then did her honours degree, winning the university medal and receiving a research scholarship.

Although appointed a teacher at Hunter Girls High School in Newcastle, she had only been teaching for one day when she received a telegram offering her a position at the University of Tasmania.

She carried a full load of teaching, helped design courses and had University of Tasmania Professor Warren Carey as her PhD supervisor.

After winning the Rotary Fellowship, she spent a year at Cambridge in 1949 at the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology, the first Australian woman recipient and one of the first beneficiaries of the fellowship.

She met her future husband, Ali, an Egyptian philosopher, while studying at Cambridge.

The pair was married in Cairo in 1952 after Professor Nashar had finished her PhD, and the following year she came home to Australia to give birth to her son, Tarek.

In 1955, she was offered a lectureship in what was then the fledgling Newcastle University College.

Five years after becoming the first female member of the geology staff, Professor Nashar was promoted to senior lecturer, and four years after that became an associate professor.

She was on the board of directors of Royal Newcastle Hospital for more than 16 years, and those of the Faculty of Medicine and the Greater Newcastle Building Society.

Another major interest was the Federation of Business and Professional Women, in which she rose to the international presidency.

She found the time to publish four books and 30 research papers in between teaching, studying and raising her son.

Professor Nashar was farewelled at a moving service at the Lake Macquarie Memorial Park, Ryhope, on May 10.