Woman Moyal, Ann


Northbridge, New South Wales, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Hurley, Ann Hurley, Ann (Maiden)

Written by Susan Foley and Charles Sowerwine, The University of Melbourne

Ann Hurley was born in the lower North Shore Sydney suburb of Northbridge, where her father was a bank teller. She studied history at the University of Sydney (BA Hons 1946). On the strength of her first-class Honours, she was awarded a scholarship to London University, but after a successful first year she abandoned post-graduate work to become a research assistant. To explain this choice, one might note that, as she put it, 'None of us [women post-graduate students] foresaw an academic career. There were very few women on the University's teaching staff to serve as models' (Breakfast with Beaverbrook, 31). Indeed, unlike the University of Melbourne School of History, where Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Margaret Kiddle and Jessie Webb were on the staff and inspired many women, the University of Sydney had few women historians on its staff before 1970. Margaret Hentze (1909-47), who studied at the University of Sydney and then obtained a PhD from the University of London (for a thesis entitled 'Pre-fascist Italy: the rise and fall of the parliamentary regime' [1939]), was named a Lecturer at Sydney, but resigned the same year; no woman replaced her until Alice Hazel Kelso King (1908-97) secured a position in 1960 (King was the author of Elizabeth Macarthur and her world [1980]).

Hurley married Michael Cousins in 1951. She divorced him in 1954, but it was under the name Cousins that she became research assistant to Lord Beaverbrook as he prepared Men and power, 1917-1918 (1956). In 1957, she married Colonel Everest Mozley, who left her the following year. She continued, however, to use the name Mozley. Refusing once again a scholarship offered for a PhD at the ANU, she returned to Australia and became the founding Assistant Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, an immense project whose foundations she built before leaving in 1962, the year in which she married the mathematician Joe Moyal. She then co-authored (as Ann Moyal) the memoirs of former prime minister Earle Page, Truant surgeon: the inside story of forty years of Australian political life (1963). Working henceforth as an independent scholar, she devoted herself to the history of Australian science, publishing two immense research tools, which established her as a leader in the field: A Guide to the Manuscript Records of Australian Science (1966) and Scientists in nineteenth century Australia: a documentary history (1976).

Following her husband to the US, she published 'Change in Argonne National Laboratory [of atomic science]: A Case Study' (Science 174 [1971], Issue 4004: 30-38), which provoked controversy but ultimately led to significant reform of the laboratory. In 1972, Moyal accepted a position as Lecturer in the History of Science at the New South Wales Institute of Technology (later the University of Technology, Sydney). Her article, 'The Australian Atomic Energy Commission: A Case Study in Australian Science and Government' (Search 6 [1975, No. 9]: 365-380), made her reputation as the leading Australian expert on the history of atomic energy in Australia, she was named foundation director of the Science Policy Research Centre at Griffith University (Brisbane). Faced with a Vice-Chancellor hostile to her and to women in general, her work was restricted. This led to a controversial case about academic freedom. She obtained some satisfaction but, deciding that the institution would remain difficult for her, resigned in 1979.

Subsequently she devoted herself to writing. Her leading work included Clear across Australia: a history of telecommunications (1984); A bright & savage land: scientists in colonial Australia (1986; second edition 1993); and above all Platypus (2001; published in the US under the title Platypus: the extraordinary story of how a curious creature baffled the world), which was a great success and remains in print. Her frank and forthright autobiography, Breakfast with Beaverbrook: memoirs of an independent woman (1995), was also a success. She was named to the Order of Australia in 1993 for her 'contribution to the history of Australian science' and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1997. The University of Sydney awarded her a DLitt in 2007.

Published Resources


  • Moyal, Ann, Breakfast with Beaverbrook: memoirs of an independent woman, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, New South Wales, 1995. Details

Book Sections

  • Torney, Kim, 'Moyal, Ann', in Davidson, Graeme; Hirst, John and Macintyre, Stuart (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian History, Rev edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 2001. Details

Online Resources

See also