Alison Harcourt named 2019 Victorian Senior Australian of the Year

Ms Harcourt was honoured for her seminal work in integer linear programming and other contributions to the mathematical and statistical sciences.

Also announced this week was the news that Ms Harcourt will be awarded a honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Melbourne. She was recently profiled in a popular segment on 7.30 on ABC TV.

The Senior Australian of the year will be announced at the Australian of the Year awards ceremony in Canberra on 25 January 2019. Below is the citation from the Victorian Australian of the Year committee:

As a woman in mathematics and statistics, Alison Harcourt’s seminal work was overlooked. She is now best known for developing integer linear programming, the basis of efficient computer processing. Her other research, on the poverty line and randomisation of ballot papers, led to a Royal Commission and electoral law changes.

As a woman in mathematics and statistics, Alison Harcourt’s seminal work from the 1950s onwards was often overlooked. She is now best known for developing integer linear programming, the basis of efficient computer processing. The 1960 paper written with Ailsa Land on the topic has been cited in 3000 academic journal articles.

Alison has written numerous papers and is the co-author of three books. She was also one of the first users of CSIRAC, Australia’s first digital computer. As a statistician, she worked with social scientist Ronald Henderson and economist R. J. Harper on what became known on the Melbourne Poverty Survey, Australia’s first systematic, quantitative measure of poverty. Their work formed the basis of the 1972 Royal Commission into poverty.

Alison’s other outstanding work, with fellow statistician Malcolm Clark, on the randomisation of electoral ballot papers led to a change in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1984.

Alison Harcourt receives her award