Ann Wintle

Doctor of Science (honoris causa)

Citation delivered by Professor Alison Jones, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Ann Grace Wintle as a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on 26 April 2016.


Chancellor, I present Ann Wintle.

As we celebrate the academic achievement of the graduates assembled here today, it is important that we reflect upon the contribution of the influential teachers and mentors who have supported their journey. Ann Wintle is one of those dedicated teachers and mentors; an outstanding academic leader who has unselfishly committed herself to academic service all her life and inspired and challenged many budding scientists and researchers.

Today, we also celebrate Professor Wintle’s outstanding scholarship and contribution to scientific understanding. Professor Wintle has had a stellar academic career, particularly in luminescence dating; understanding the fundamental physical properties of luminescence signals from mineral grains and their potential as a means of dating important events in the evolution of Earth and humankind. With rich archaeological and geological applications; Professor Wintle has been at the forefront of the development of luminescence dating and has pioneered ways to determine the age of the earliest fossils.

After being enthused by Millikan’s oil drop experiment and an inspirational physics teacher in secondary school, Ann obtained her Bachelor of Science from the University of Sussex in 1969, and her PhD in 1974 and Doctor of Science in 1997, both from Oxford University. Since that time her career has taken her into university departments of physics, archaeology, botany and geography in England, Canada, Wales and Sweden, bringing into light her commitment to interdisciplinary and transnational research.

Professor Wintle was a committed undergraduate teacher, referee of papers and grants, editor of journals, organiser of conferences and everything that can be expected of a well-rounded and influential academic. She performed these tasks with dignity and humility; in the interest of passing on of knowledge. Professor Wintle regards one of her major achievements as being able to see students and early career researchers mature as scientists, and to have been able to help them reach their full potential.

Professor Wintle’s outstanding scholarship is clear in her authorship of seminal papers on the development and potential of luminescence dating of sediments from the 1970’s to the present. She has published over 180 papers on luminescence studies, ranging from the electron to the epic and in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals. These papers are co authored with 150 different authors from a wide range of fields and countries. Her most cited paper has radically changed the understanding of how to measure the luminescence signal accurately in the laboratory, demonstrating the impact of her research and changing the field of optically stimulated luminescence dating to such an extent that it is now the method of choice for archaeologists and geologists working in the Quaternary period (a geologic time period that covers the last 2.6 million years) globally.

Professor Wintle is dedicated to the training and continuous mentoring of students and researchers across the globe, spanning South Africa, Scandinavia, Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Romania, Poland and Israel. Her first visit to China in 1984 led to ongoing contact with young Chinese students for the next 30 years, and research visits and work in the 1980s in Eastern Europe enabled her to visit countries that were cut off from western research. Because of Professor Wintle’s dedication and support, these countries now have their own laboratories and are actively contributing to the understanding of the luminescence properties of quartz and feldspar and long-term environmental change.

Professor Wintle’s sense of adventure and passion for her research have no political or geographical boundaries and there is no luminescence dating laboratory in the world where Professor Wintle is not revered by established and upcoming researchers - it is most likely that there is some connection with her through the academic family of many generations that she has created. Indeed, the high regard held for the University of Wollongong’s Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) laboratory is in no small measure due to the past and continuing mentorship and training of most of the University’s staff (in this area of expertise) by Professor Wintle. This mentorship and training started as early as 1993 and continues to the present - a collaborative friendship we treasure.

As the recipient of a number of prestigious awards and prizes to celebrate her life-time contributions to the broader fields of earth sciences, physics and archaeology, Professor Wintle has been described as the ‘world’s leading light in the field of luminescence dating’. She has received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from Uppsala University, Sweden and also received the Appleton Medal of the Institute of Physics in 2008 for her research in environmental physics. In 2015, she received the Liu Tungshen Distinguished Career Medal from the International Union of Quaternary Research (INQUA) for a lifetime of luminescence in the service of the Quaternary.

Professor Wintle’s philosophy is to see life as a challenge – something many graduates here today will recognise in themselves. The importance in seeing an opportunity and seizing it cannot be emphasised enough. As Marie Curie said, ‘nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.’

Chancellor, for her outstanding international contribution to luminescence studies and dating, her lifetime of academic service and leadership, and her valued contribution to this University through her mentorship and training of our staff, it is a privilege and pleasure to present Professor Ann Wintle for a Doctor of Science, honoris causa.