Australia’s oldest PhD graduate is 94-year-old great-grandfather David Bottomley

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Posted

February 06, 2019 12:58:48

A 94-year-old great-grandfather has become the oldest person in Australia to graduate with a PhD.

Key points:

  • David Bottomley completed a doctor of philosophy after a 72-year career
  • His Curtin University PhD focussed on the history of teaching methods
  • He says the completion of this degree does not mark the end of his education

After seven years of part-time study, David Bottomley has graduated from Perth’s Curtin University with a doctor of philosophy, a year ahead of schedule.

“I signed on for eight years part-time to do this particular exercise and I got through it with a year to spare, so there we are,” Dr Bottomley said.

He stressed that his was not a case of returning to study as a mature-age student, but a continuation of a life’s work.

“I haven’t gone back to study, I just haven’t stopped,” he said.

“I’ve been in professional life about 72 years.

“My wife remarked that my age could be read two ways — either it suggested obsession or incompetence.”

The Melbourne academic started his career as a science master at a school in Albury, New South Wales in 1946.

He worked in social and market research across England, Australia and Asia for 60 years before completing a masters by research degree at the University of Melbourne.

He has four children, 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Studies re-examined the function of classrooms

Dr Bottomley’s thesis examined the teaching methods of five progressive English educators who introduced an understanding of science into the curriculum from 1816 to 1885.

“The history of teaching, in the academic world, has not been well patronised,” he said.

“I took five well-known teachers during the 19th century who treated science as a subject by which students could get some understanding of the society in which they lived.

“From this I have a compilation of questions, like ‘What’s the function of a classroom? [and] ‘Why should teaching be based on competition and not cooperation?'”

Dr Bottomley completed his doctorate via correspondence from Melbourne with guidance from his PhD supervisor, Professor David Treagust.

And while he was proficient with a computer and communicated by email, he did need some assistance with the technology.

“That was one area where I needed some help, and happily received it,” he said.

“I’m still not expert in devices, which my grandchildren use without thinking.”

‘I have a great deal yet to work out’

Dr Bottomley said the completion of this degree did not mark the end of his education.

“Certainly not,” he said.

“There’s a vast lack of understanding of the basics of what’s happening in society.

“It’s inadequate research, inadequate knowledge of scientific principals and inadequate willingness to be out there in the field with the people who are giving their time to you to answer all your odd questions.

“That’s an area where I think as researchers we might have let the side down, and I have a great deal yet to work out.”

His advice to anyone seeking to take up study later in life?

“Good luck to anyone who is as crazy as I am,” he said.

Topics:

older-people,

university-and-further-education,

education,

perth-6000,

melbourne-3000,

vic,

wa



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