Isabel Joy Bear AM

Isabel Joy Bear spent over 50 years of her career working in science, and was committed to supporting women achieve in the sector.

Honour Roll

The smell of rain after a long period of warm dry weather is one we all recognise. Identifying the chemistry behind that smell is just one of the many achievements of Isabel Joy Bear's career.

Starting as a Junior Laboratory Assistant in 1944, Isabel rose to the position of Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO. Isabel's contribution to Australian science and, in particular, the field of mineral chemistry was recognised in her appointment as Member of the Order of Australia in 1986. In addition to a distinguished research career, which includes publishing more than seventy research papers and completing a senior doctoral degree, she demonstrated a passion for encouraging young women to pursue careers in science. A number of young Australian scientists have paid tribute to her guidance in furthering their scientific careers.

Isabel saw it as providing a kind of support that was not available to her. "Women are still under-represented in science and for a long time it was hard to move from junior experimental positions, under someone else's supervision, to the more senior research positions," she said. Isabel's commitment to supporting women in science made her a founding member, and subsequent chair, of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute's (RACI) Women in Chemistry Network. In 1988 she became the first woman to receive the RACI's prestigious Leighton medal for services to chemistry in Australia.

Isabel also wrote extensively about science ranging from the foreword of the Australian Science in Schools Week Resource Book to co-authoring Alumina to Zirconia - the History of the CSIRO Division of Mineral Chemistry. An interest in the place of science in education led Isabel to take on other responsibilities including work with the Victorian Post-Secondary Education Commission and the Advisory Committee on Technological Research and Development in Colleges of Advanced Education. She helped prepare the history of the CSIRO's Chemical Engineering division.

A relative of Annette Bear-Crawford, one of the founders of the Queen Victoria Hospital and a prominent Victorian suffragette, Isabel continued a family tradition through her involvement in the Heritage Team of the Queen Victoria Women's Centre.