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Shirley Jeffrey AM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Shirley Jeffrey

Awarded for service to Science

Died: 4 January 2015

Entered on roll: 2006


Dr Shirley Jeffrey was born in Townsville, Queensland. It was at the Methodist Ladies' College in Melbourne, which she attended for four years, that her interest in biology emerged.

She obtained her Masters of Science degree from the University of Sydney and a PhD in Biochemical Pharmacology from Kings College, London University. She joined the CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceanography in 1958 to work on marine plant pigments. During this time, she developed new biochemical separation techniques and discovered new families of pigments.

Shirley was the first person in the world to prepare pure chlorophyll c, found only in marine plants. It was one of the most important moments in her career, and it gave scientists, for the first time, the means of evaluating microscopic plant biomass and photosynthesis in our oceans.

Her contributions to Tasmania's community range from developing educational courses to developing and supporting the fast growing Tasmanian aquaculture industry. Her work provided top-quality algal cultures to aquaculture industries. The availability of such cultures stabilised hatchery hygiene and techniques and allowed the industry to develop quickly.

Shirley was active in the support and encouragement of women in science. Her achievements and the example she set spoke to all Tasmanian women. She spent over 15 years as a Fellow at Jane Franklin Hall, at the University of Tasmania, and was active in the support and mentoring of students.

Shirley had a highly productive career. She led the way as a scientist, a woman and a mentor and this was recognised with numerous awards. In 1991, she was elected to the Australian Academy of Science. She was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 1992. In 1993, Shirley received the Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal from the United States National Academy of Science for excellence in marine or freshwater research. She was the first person outside the United States to receive this Medal. She was later elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy. In 2003, she was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal.

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