The late Ruby Payne-Scott who would have turned 100 on May 28.
The late Ruby Payne-Scott who would have turned 100 on May 28.

Google tribute to a Grafton great

AUSTRALIANS should know more about one of the country's scientific and women's rights pioneers who was born in Grafton a century ago.

Google Australia celebrated the 100th birthday of Ruby Payne-Scott with its Google Doodle on her birth date of May 28.

She was one of Australia's early leaders in radio physics and radio astronomy and the first female radio astronomer.

Ms Payne-Scott also fought many losing battles against what now appear to be ridiculous regulations governing women in the workforce, including forced resignation from the public service after marriage.

She was born at Runnymede Hospital, with future Australian prime minister Dr Earle Page signing the birth certificate, although local historian Frank Mack said there was some conjecture about this.

"They didn't let him (Earle Page) practise across the river, which is why he had his own hospital, Clarence House, in Through St," Mr Mack said.

The Payne-Scott family is believed to have lived with the Neale family in the stylish house, Uloom, in Bent St, South Grafton.

Mr Mack, who has researched the subject, said the Payne-Scott family left the area around 1915 and was believed to have moved to Coonabarabran.

"There is a bit of mystery about what happened to the family in that time as there are no records anywhere of them," he said.

Ruby Payne-Scott surfaced again when she was enrolled at the Cleveland St School in Sydney. From there she enrolled in the St George Girls High School, completing the Leaving Certificate with honours in maths and physics.

She was awarded a bursary to the University of Sydney, where she graduated with honours in physics.

The sexual discrimination of her time meant she was only able to get "women's jobs" as a tutor and librarian during the 1930s, but the advent of the Second World War allowed her to come into her own.

Ms Payne-Scott and her scientific colleagues did a lot of highly secret work on radar and electronic surveillance for the CSIR (now CSIRO) the army used in its defence of Australia.

After the war, Ms Payne-Scott became a controversial figure.

Her women's rights activities and suspicion of involvement in the Communist Party led ASIO to compile an extensive file on her.

She was forced to leave CSIR when pregnant with her first child and admitted to her six-year marriage to Bill Hall.

As a mum she brought the eminent mathematician Peter Hall into the world and her daughter Fiona Hall is a leading artist in South Australia.

She died in 1981 after battling Alzheimer's disease for a number of years.

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