Emeritus Professor George Singer Hon FAPS (1922–2009)

Emeritus Professor George Singer Hon FAPS
Emeritus Professor George Singer Hon FAPS

APS Past President

George Singer died in Melbourne on 29 July 2009 aged 87 after a long and distressing illness. He was born in Vienna and at the age of 17, faced with the prospect of imprisonment following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, left for Britain and later settled in Sydney. Soon after arriving, George undertook a diploma course in industrial chemistry, and after a period employed as an industrial chemist established a highly successful business manufacturing furniture with a colleague in Sydney's west. Interested in personnel morale, George undertook the honours course in psychology at the University of Sydney from which he graduated in 1962. He then enrolled for an MA under the supervision of Ross Day to work on problems in morale among factory workers, and completed a PhD under the direction of Gordon Hammer.

After four years on the staff of the Department of Psychology in Sydney, George was appointed in 1968 to an associate professorship in psychology at the newly established Macquarie University where he remained until his appointment in 1972 to the Foundation Chair of Psychological Science at La Trobe University. From 1973 to 1978 he also served as Dean of the School of Behavioural Science and as Director of the influential Brain-Behaviour Research Institute (BBRI) which he established in the School.

During his distinguished career at La Trobe George received many honours. He was elected to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and Fellowship of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the Austrian Cross (1st Class) for his contributions to science and was appointed as an Honorary Director of the Beijing Behavioural Research Institute. He became increasingly interested in the implications of basic psychological research for improving work life, directing a number of research projects associated with health, shift work, stress and the physiological costs of work. He was also an early proponent of the use of mental and physical exercise as a means of lessening the effects of degenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. George was the author of over 200 papers, book chapters and monographs and was also a great populariser of psychological knowledge, producing a number of publications to acquaint the public with the applications of brain and behavioural research.

George was closely involved with the APS over a period of some 30 years from the 1960s and served as 11th President of the Society in 1975-1976. However, his main and lasting contribution was the establishment of the School of Psychological Science at La Trobe University, now housed in a building that bears his name.

George is survived by Lisl, his wife of 64 years, and their two children, Frances and Gary.

Prepared by Professor Ross Day Hon FAPS and Professor Simon Crowe FAPS

Emeritus Professor Alastair Heron FAPS (1915–2009)

Emeritus Professor Alastair Heron FAPS
Emeritus Professor Alastair Heron FAPS

APS Past President

Alastair Heron died in Sheffield on 17 March 2009 aged 93, after a short illness. He was born in Edinburgh and retained his Scottish lilt and appreciation of fine malt whisky in spite of many travels. He experienced considerable hardship during the Depression and as a Registered Conscientious Objector in the Second World War. He served as an ambulance driver and rescue worker in the London Blitz, and at a later stage worked with refugees on the battle fields of Italy and Germany. Post-War he read psychology at London and Manchester Universities, and then had a series of appointments with the UK Medical Research Council. In 1963 Alastair moved to British Central Africa to become the first Professor in the new University of Zambia.

Alastair spent only four years as Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology at Melbourne University (1970 to 1974), but in that short period made substantial contributions to Australian psychology. At a time when it was difficult to claim extra resources, his Department quickly acquired an additional building, new laboratories and staff, and research funding and student numbers grew rapidly. But Alastair's major impact was on the administration and management style of his Department and the wider University. As a firm believer in ‘participatory democracy', he worked tirelessly to develop broad involvement in decision-making. Alastair's integrity and judgment were so respected that he soon became Deputy Chair of the Professorial Board and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Then his wife Margaret's serious health problems meant he suddenly had to resign and return to their family in the UK.

Alastair's skills in encouraging unity and cooperation were also quickly recognised by the APS. He was Chairman of the Victorian Branch almost before his bags were unpacked, and President-Elect at the time of his enforced departure. He tried to resign from the Presidency, but Council instead arranged for him to return a year later to give his Presidential Address.

After a long spiritual struggle, Alastair joined the Society of Friends in 1942 and made many important contributions to Quaker thought and practice, including editing Towards a Quaker view of sex that caused consternation in many ‘respectable' circles! Alastair's deep concern for human progress and wellbeing found its expression in many of the problems tackled in his research, for example, education for parenthood and employment of the disabled. His most important work was probably done while in Liverpool in the 1960s as Director of the MRC Unit on the Occupational Aspects of Ageing. He conducted detailed investigations into the changes in physical, physiological and psychological functions in relation to chronological age, and on their implications for employment. As Australia and other countries consider raising the age of retirement, this innovative and meticulous research program may well attract renewed attention.

Prepared by Professor Alexander Wearing MAPS and Professor Keith Taylor FAPS

InPsych October 2009