Joyce Vickery

Joyce Winifred Vickery (1908-1979), botanist and conservationist, was born on 15 December 1908, youngest of four children of Elizabeth Alice Adeline (born Rossbach) and George Begg Vickery. She was educated at Methodist Ladies' College, Burwood, and the University of Sydney graduating BSc with honours (1931) and MSc (1933). During postgraduate study in the Botany Department she published on insectivorous plants, researched aspects of seed germination in grasses, and was president of the Biological Society. With her friend and colleague Lillian Fraser she studied the community ecology of the Upper Williams River and Barrington Tops. Their joint papers were published in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales.

In 1936 she was appointed assistant botanist at the National Herbarium of New South Wales, the first woman appointed in a professional capacity to the Herbarium. She undertook the editing of two important series: Contributions from the New South Wales National Herbarium and the Flora of New South Wales. Her research involved periods at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and at other institutions abroad. She became an authority on native grasses which was the subject of her PhD (1959). In 1962 she helped solve the Graeme Thorne kidnapping case with forensic work which established that plant fragments associated with the crime were from the kidnapper's home. She became a conservationist and in the 1960s lent support to the protection of the Kosciusko State Park.

In 1964 the Royal Society of New South Wales awarded her the Clarke Memorial Medal. She was appointed senior botanist at the Herbarium in that year. After her official retirement in 1967 she continued research as an honorary research fellow (1973-78).

Dr Vickery died from cancer in May 1979. She had remained single. In her childhood she had declared that she 'didn't want any man hanging on to her coat tails'. Throughout her career she tried to redress the discriminatory practices in the workplace, particularly in regard to rates of pay. On her first appointment at the Herbarium she refused to accept the starting salary of 188 pounds a year for a female officer, insisting on being paid on the basis of qualifications, negotiated at 250 pounds. She repeatedly made submissions to the Public Service Board on equal pay, though without success.

She was a member of the Royal Society and of the Linnean Society, which she served as honorary treasurer in 1971-78. She became involved in the Science Centre Project, after the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority served notice of resumption on Science House in Gloucester St. She fought for the project believing that the Societies which owned Science House had a moral obligation to pursue the objects for which they had accepted government funding.

Alison Holland