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Thank you Dr David Goodall

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A life and a legacy

A life and a legacy

A life and a legacy

Ryan Ausden - with Kayt Davies, Reporter

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Dr David Goodall was born on April 4, 1914, and ended his long life on May 10, 2018, through a lethal injection in Liestal, Switzerland. He was 104, and had worked hard over after a long career as a research scientist, in his last years as Professor with Edith Cowan University.

Dr Goodall was a loving father, grandfather and great grandfather, as well as a highly regarded botanist and ecologist, authoring more than 100 research publications that made a significant contribution to what is now known about plants, crops and how they grow.

Dr Goodall was a world-renowned botanist and ecologist who received multiple awards for work in his field, including receiving the Distinguished Statistical Ecologist Award from the International Association for Ecology in 1994, and in 2016 he was listed in the Australia Day Honors list and was made a member of the Order of Australia for “significant service to science as an academic, researcher and author in the area of plant ecology and natural resources management”.

He was also Australia’s oldest working scientist, being active in his field editing ecology papers up until the age of 103.

The last paper he authored was published in 2014 in the peer reviewed journal Plant Biosystems. It was about how large data bases full of details of plant characteristics could be used to identify plants. It was cutting edge work. Delving into the details it involves probability, complex mathematical models and a deep understanding of what features are most likely to identify different species.

Looking back at his earlier work, when he was in his 30s he was the co-author of a book published in 1947 called Chemical Composition of Plants as an Indicator of their Nutritional Status.

In the foreword of the book Professor Vernon Hebert Blackman described their work on the mineral needs of crops as “a promise of future benefit to agriculture” and said that: “All workers in the field of plant nutrition – plant physiologists, as well as agriculturists – owe much to the authors.” The book provided understandings that farmers use today to diagnose which fertilizers their crops need.

Fellow Botanist David Ashton said that Dr Goodall provided “enormous stimulus” to the research in nutritional physiology in the years after World War II, with a series of research papers and reviews in the 1950s through to the ’60s titled Objective Methods for the Classification of Vegetation.

His other works include a 1976 book on the Evolution of Desert Biota and a 1978 book on Simulation Modelling of Environmental Problems and how it can build understanding.

In statement ECU Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Arshad Omari said: “His career spanned over 70 years and took him all over the world, working at the University of Reading, University of California and CSIRO with him officially retiring in 1979.”

Dr Goodall started working at ECU in 1998 when he was appointed as an Honorary Research Associate, with the title Professor, which was his role at the University up until his death.

In 2016 ECU expressed concern about Dr Goodall’s health and safety in his isolated office on the Joondalup Campus. The issue hit the media and sparked outrage that settled when Dr Goodall was offered a ground floor office on the Mt Lawley campus to continue his work.

Before leaving for Switzerland, Dr Goodall spoke to the media about assisted dying and his belief that assisted dying options should be available in Australia, on the grounds of old age.

While he is no longer with us, his contribution to the fields of biology and agriculture are an impressive legacy that lives on.

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Thank you Dr David Goodall