Inspiring scientists

01 September, 2010

Tom Rich at Inspiring Scientists day
Tom Rich at Inspiring Scientists day at Scienceworks.
Source: Museum Victoria

National Science Week is always a busy time for Melbourne Museum and Scienceworks as a special program of events and activities at both venues celebrate all that is great about science.

This year, Scienceworks hosted an event called 'Inspiring Scientists' which invited kids to chat to museum scientists about careers in their particular "-ology". Avvy Banerjee is a programs officer at Scienceworks who helped to coordinate the two-day event. "It was lots of fun meeting scientists from all over Melbourne. The all volunteered their weekend to encourage young visitors to pursue careers in science ," she said. Avvy herself has an interesting science career path, having studied biomedical science before becoming a science communicator.

Among the participating scientists was MV palaeontologist Tom Rich, who wrote this letter to Avvy, describing a delightful and unexpected result.


Dear Avvy,

Thanks to your asking me to be an “Inspiring Scientist”, I was able to locate someone I had not had contact with for nearly four decades. And it was not just anyone that I relocated.

The story begins in 1972 when a 13 year old girl by the name of Kerry Hine was fossicking around in her family’s clay quarry on the outskirts of  Bacchus Marsh. Doing so, she found some bone of the extinct, giant marsupial Diprotodon. She took them to her science teacher who in turn notified the then National Museum of Victoria. As a consequence, a collection was made of those fossils that included thirteen partial skulls of Diprotodon

Soon after, I joined the staff of the National Museum of Victoria.  Realising that these skulls were the best preserved ones known, I wanted to have them illustrated by a well qualified artist who could mentally piece them together to make one composite image. Together with my wife, Patricia,  I went out looking for such an artist and found him. His name is Peter Trusler and his painting images of the skulls of Diprotodon was only the first of many palaeontologically related artistic projects that he, my wife, and I have carried out over the past three decades. As a consequence of that, the three of us have written a book entitled, “The Artist and the Scientists:  Bringing Prehistory to Life” to be soon published by Cambridge University Press.

On 16 September, the book will be launched at Tree Tops. As Kerry Hine was critical in Peter, Pat and I meeting in the first place, I would like to invite her to the launch of the book. But how to find her? Having unsuccessfully tried to find members of the Hine family in the Bacchus Marsh area when I searched the telephone directory on line because I was under the misapprehension that her surname was Hines, I had all but given up ever finding Kerry Hine. 

But last Sunday when I was being an “Inspiring Scientist”, a lady came up to me and we got to talking about “The Artist and the Scientists”, a preliminary copy of which was lying on the table. It turned out she was from Bacchus Marsh. So I asked her if she would try to find Kerry Hine, thinking that the chances of her actually doing so were vanishingly small. On Tuesday night, I received a telephone call at my desk at the museum which only reached me because I was working late. It was a former English teacher of Kerry. A few hours later, I was talking with Kerry who now lives in Perth, having returned to Australia a few years ago after being a teacher in Botswana for 16 years. 

And all this occurred because you asked me to be an inspiring scientist. Thank you for having done so.

Sincerely yours,

Tom Rich

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Peter Trusler