I read recently that people come into our lives for a season, a reason, or for life.
I met you in May 2003, when I came to work at the ANU, so our connection could be seen to be only for a season, but I don't feel that this is so. Like many people who spoke at your funeral, I know your influence to be much greater than your fragile frame would imply. I believe that I needed to learn a life lesson, and that is the reason our lives touched briefly.
And what an incandescent teacher you are! Talking with you, observing you at work and working with you, I gathered a lot of material to reflect on and to evaluate my own values and beliefs. I learned about work and what a dream run my chequered work history was in contrast to that of a talented female academic, particularly in the sciences; I found we shared experiences of what constitutes a family and how blood and genes are not necessarily a requirement; and I learned how creativity is as necessary in some lives as is breathing. I cannot aspire to reach your heights of courage, determination or achievement, and mine is only one of so many stories of the effect you had on people about you.
Your impact is lasting one, and doesn't end with your passing.
Shine on Hilary!
I first met Hilary when she started with CBIS and came to the Supercomputer Facility to talk about porting code to our machines. I was so impressed that someone with her Maths background could learn and understand the Biology as she did. She worked so hard and was so enthusiastic. As time went by we got to know each other better but it was only recently that we discovered that we had actually been to the same high school in Brisbane. She was delighted to find an old school magazine with me pictured in the Year 12 class.
While we were working together my daughter was diagnosed with cancer just before her 20th birthday and had to undergo treatment. The worry of this brought on a relapse of a chronic disease that I have and life was pretty awful for us for a while. Conversations with Hilary were a great comfort to me and I could talk to her about our health problems in a more matter of fact and positive way than I could with anyone else. I guess this was because of her own experiences and her steadfast refusal to let ill health get in the way of having a good, fulfilling life.
In the last couple of years we didn't work together as much and I saw her only occasionally although I always intended to try to see her more often. But I will always remember Hilary's optimism and her ability to make the most of every moment she had and wish that I had shared a few more of them with her.
I first met Hilary when she joined the CMA as a Postdoctoral Fellow in August 2000. At the time she was doing collaborative research work with Alan McIntosh. Right from the start Hilary was a joy to have around. It was really nice having another female on staff, even though she was an academic! Hilary was always bright and chirpy with a great sense of fun. I well remember the first MSI Christmas party she was here for, I asked her if she would mind coming with me to collect some party ice from a garage in Braddon for the beer, wine and soft drinks. There was no hesitation. There and back we chatted away, no difficult awkward silences, we exchanged snippets of news and funny life experiences especially about her girls and mine. Hilary was always someone you could call on to lend a hand. At that stage I had no idea how sick she had been or what lay ahead for her, of course, none of us did.
In 2001 I worked directly with Hilary on the organising committee for the 45th AGM of the AustMSociety held at the ANU in September 2001. At each committee meeting Hilary was a great contributor particularly regarding the art work that she thought would be eye catching, appealing and appropriate for the meeting. She came up trumps with her art submissions. She was also adamant about having all sections of mathematics represented at the meeting and would "network" tirelessly for the meeting. Hilary did work tirelessly but she also made the work fun. Hilary played a significant role in the smooth running of the meeting, which turned out to be an outstanding success.
In March 2001 Hilary left the CMA and joined the CBiS group. A great loss for the CMA. Hilary also changed offices so the opportunity to chat freely went but we often ran into each other in the Common Room and always had a cheerful exchange of news.
Quite clearly Hilary loved an "occasion" and the MSI Melbourne Cup functions were no exception. Hilary always had an "arty" hat for the occasion and enjoyed displaying her creations. Last year each "hat participant" was asked to walk through the Common Room, give their name and a brief description of their hat. I remember Hilary reminded everyone that her name is "Hilary, with one L"!
More recently when Hilary told me about her medical condition, she didn't complain about it or make it better or worse than what it was. I always felt Hilary was a fearless realist who could face the most daunting of challenges that life threw at her. And she certainly had more than her fair share of those.
I will miss Hilary's natural warmth, beautiful smile, easy conversation and her wicked sense of humour. She was "one in a million".
Thank you for our "brief encounter" Hilary.
Natalie rang me last Sunday evening to let me know Hilary had passed away. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I haven't stopped thinking about her and of course the girls. My daughter Amy and Natalie met when they were at Primary School (East Adelaide) and Hilary and myself just clicked!! Last year when the girls flew to Broome to spend time with Craig, their father, I picked them up at the Adelaide airport and brought them back to our place for the night, and took them back to airport the next day, and when they flew back to Canberra a few weeks later, they stopped over again in Adelaide with us for the night. We loved having them and enjoyed catching up with them. Hilary and I would often have deep and meaningfuls about life, relationships etc. We often shared naughty disgusting jokes too - and would have a good laugh. We shared the same sick humour.
Last September, my husband had a conference in Canberra so I tagged along too, and Amy stayed with Hilary and the girls for a few nights, while Rob and I stayed at the Rydges and had time out together. I spent a very special few hours with Hilary up the road from their place (forget the name of it) where we drank coffee and raved on like we always did when we met. I will miss her emails and most of all her friendship. I loved her very much and admired the wonderful woman she had become. I am not sure when her funeral is, but would of course wish I could be there - please pass on to Natalie and Lila our love.
I bless Cath every day that she had those little parties and invited us. I'm so glad I came along... I miss Hilary a lot. She was special and I don't know, hard to explain but where once was a garden there is now tar and cement. I'm glad I knew her though - very.
Hilary's PhD topic was "The Static Maxwell-Dirac Equations", a study of the equations of electronic matter under certain constraints. Hilary had spent a lot of time agonising and looking at certain characterisations of the equations in terms of 'physically relevent quantities' -- eg the total electric charge. As is often the case after a year into the PhD the work seemed to be 'going around in circles' and getting 'bloody nowhere'! Hilary came to my office one morning almost in despair, 'everytime I do the asymptotic expansions everything collapses - there is no solution!'. I made the usual supervisor's reassuring noises 'well negative results can be quite useful ...' - really, when your writing a thesis you want results, theorems. We went to have a coffee and have another look at things. I made a few jokes about some really good theorems are just negative results phrased in an appealing way. Continuing in this light hearted way Hilary started to formulate her negative results in an exaggerated way as a theorem. After about ten minutes of this banter we both ealised that she did indeed have a very serious theorem! This theorem, that a static Maxwell-Dirac system is electrically neutral, became the centerpiece of her thesis. Of course, there was still a lot of 'proving' to be done, but the critical event in the gestation of the result was some lighthearted banter over coffee.
Hilary, like a lot of people of our generation (teenagers in the '60s or '70s) had a nice dose of "anti-establishment". She liked to listen to stories in this vein, particularly if they had something to do with human frailty. I was reminded of this just three days ago when Lucia Santoso sent me a picture taken at the AMSI dinner at ANU last February. I'm the overly serious one on the left next to Nancy Lane, Hilary with a vivacious smile is sitting opposite me. I had just finished telling Hilary about a recent experience at Vancouver airport: I was standing in line to go through US customs (Disneyland, the local Canadians call it!) two guys in leather jackets, leather pants short hair and big moustashes are in line behind me. The guy at the counter indicates to one of them to join another que, as he does so his friend runs after him. Two burly guards jump out, "stop! What are you doing". Then comes the reply from the leather clad figures (in unison, and in my best San Fransisco gay accent) "we're husbands!" They'd been over the border to get married! Hilary loved it -- "how cute!", was her comment. The camera caught us just after I'd finished telling the story.
You would be unlikely to meet anyone with more human empathy than Hilary - particularly amongst mathematicians who can be a bit "stand-offish", my partner says we're autistic!
I will always remember the first time I met Hilary. At the time I was unemployed and looking for any vaguely suitable academic job I could find in my area of maths or physics. Chasing up a statistics lectureship at the University of New England I phoned up the contact person in Armidale, who told me that his interest was in bioinformatics, and if I wanted to know more about the subject he had a friend in Canberra I should go and chat to. She was a physicist who had moved into bioinformatics and could tell me all about it.
So it happened that I knocked on the office door of Hilary Booth out of the blue and announced myself as someone who had just lost my job in a local IT firm, hadn't worked in a university for three years, and was applying for a lectureship in statistics although I didn't know much statistics. Could she give me any advice? Totally unfazed by the appearance of this total stranger, she greeted me with her trademark huge smile and we talked for about the next hour. It's an understatement to say we hit it off quite well. I was made to feel very welcome and invited to the CBiS weekly reading group. Luckily I didn't get the Armidale statistics lectureship, but as a result of coming along to the weekly reading group was offered a position in CBiS. I owe the re-emergence of my academic career to Hilary.
Working with Hilary over the last two years has been an absolute joy. Strange coincidences in our pasts seemed to keep cropping up, the most bizarre of which was discovering that we had both been in grade 8 at Brisbane State High School in 1969. Unfortunately we never met at the time (State High girls were not allowed to talk to the boys!) but we certainly knew all the teachers and their foibles and unearthed at least one mutual friend who was also in that year. We also discovered a liking for watching the same TV programmes while growing up in the sixties, and could recount many episodes of Dr. Who and The Avengers. And of course there was also the shared interest in cryptic crossword puzzles and the famous nine-letter word puzzle in out of the paper in the tearoom over lunch.
It is hard to believe I had only known Hilary for a little over two years. It seems more like she has been a life long friend. I feel utterly privileged to have known and worked with her and will miss her terribly.
Just wanted to say thank you
Thank you for sharing a part of your life with me
You where such a source of inspiration and wonder
Despite all the obstacles thrown your way
You where talented in so many ways
An artist, A scholar
A wonderful human being
Go easy into the great unknown
Our memories of you will live on
Artwork hanging on the wall
A photo in an album
Some music on the stereo
Memories from days gone by
Of time with you, your family
And lots of special friends
Rest your weary body down
Go easy into the great unknown
Our Memories of you will live on
Phone calls and emails
The grape vine comes alive
Across States, Oceans, and Continents
The news travels fast
We laugh and cry and reminisce
We thank you for sharing you life
Go easy into the great unknown
Our Memories of you will live on
I came to Australia from New Zealand with the intention of working for a while, catching up with some friends who had been travelling and then doing some travelling myself.
However soon I had started my nursing training and began settling into live in Sydney. I meet my first Australian girlfriend, Carolyn; whilst I was still a student and we lived together in Coogee.
Through Carolyn I got to know an interesting group of people that included Hilary, Kate, Tony, Craig and various others. We all seemed to share similar tastes in music, art, humour and similar political and social outlooks.
I slowly got to now Hilary and Craig and eventually Lila & Natalie.
When Hilary was first diagnosed with breast cancer her doctor recommended having a support person outside her relationship (with Craig) ' I felt very privileged when she asked me.
This included visits to the Ashram and lots of chin wags over cups tea.
Whilst I was training to be a Midwife, Hilary and Craig had their first Baby, Lila. Their having a home birth was a great balance to the somewhat conservative attitudes prevailing in the hospital where I was training. (Thankfully these attitudes have changed!!). (Hilary claimed a friend called Clint made her laugh so much that she went into labour??) I remember Baby-sitting Lila a couple of times when she was young.
A few months later we are neighbours in a block of flats in Coogee Sydney. In fact my flatmate Bob and I had moved out of a flat in Coogee allowing Hilary, Craig and Lila to move in ' about 1 year later Heather moved in with Bob and I moved with Clint to the flat opposite Hilary and Craig's 'The flats shared the same back yard ' our back doors a step or 2 apart ' Lila spent lots of time walking between the 2 flats, checking out the action. This was where Natalie was born
Sometimes we would cook and share meals together and maybe a game of zilch or dominos.
My Mum and Dad came to visit from New Zealand during this time and meet Hilary and Craig. Later on Hilary did a painting for me, a present for my folks 50th Wedding anniversary. Several years later this painting still has pride of place in the family home.
During this time Hilary started getting back into mathematics and soon the Family were on the move to Armidale for Hilary to do her Doctorate.
Seemed like around this time people where going off in different directions ' settling down with partners, starting families, travelling. We keep in contact and got together for holidays, weddings, birthday parties etc.
Then lo and behold Hilary and crew were off to Adelaide. Didn't have so much contact after this but keep in touch via different people catching up and spreading the news about each other and the phone call, occasional card and email. Did manage to have a few days (child free) with Hilary and family and had lots of fun attending Womadelaide together. (One of the things we had in common ' a love of music).
Now I'm left with some amazing artwork, several photos, some favourite albums and CD's, and my recollections that keep the spirit of Hilary alive. The artwork includes a silk painting called 'Word Sound Power', a fun painting of a teapot and 2 teacups and saucers dancing, and some large posters for a nutrition project I did whilst training as a child & family health nurse.
Sue, I worked with Hilary while she was here in the Maths departments. Hilary employed my daughter Kelly Parish casually for a short spell and they had some great laughs together. Kell penned a poem "Keeping Hope" which she gave to Hilary at the time. They both had some major surgery and Kelly has an ongoing health problem so they shared a common bond. As a parent I appreciated the support she showed for Kelly and was always concerned for her well being. She converted our family to yoghurt with acidophilus. Kell is currently in London but has asked for her poem to be included in your book. She is doing her best to rustle it up from her end.
I could tell you a few funny stories but some couldn't be published. One amusing thing that comes to mind is when Hilary was considering having a hysterectomy she heard on the grapevine I had already undergone the procedure so came to my office and said "Good you don't look like an old bag". Had the notion that this was instantly going to change her into a wrinkled up old prune.
As I reflect on different things she said like "If I go tomorrow I have crammed so much into my life" I can't help but look at the poem on my wall which reads:
To laugh often and much,
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children,
to earn the appreciation of honest
critics and endure the betrayal
of false friends;
to appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others,
to leave the world a bit better, whether
by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a
redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed
easier, because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded
We are all here for the season of life but I cannot help but feel the above words sum up her success.
Just when it seems like smooth sailing
And nothing else could go wrong
Something happens to knock you down
And the road ahead seems hard and long.
Pick yourself up when you fall
And use all you have to fight
Friends you didn't know you had
Will help you through your plight.
And just when you see that light ahead
Another hurdle will block your way
But keep your head high and hope in your heart
And you'll fight through another day.
When people get sick they say 'Why me?'
But think of it as a test
When God dishes out trials in life
He gives them only to the best.
While you may not see an ending
And you don't know what this means
Just be strong and keep your chin up
And never forget your dreams.
I have a vivid memory of Hilary, perhaps about 8-10yrs of age, at the funeral of her mother, spreading her bright smile, strumming a banjo, and drawing out responses to do with life and living from the group assembled at the family home, seeming able to maintain a lightness of spirit in the midst of the gravity of loss and death, - perhaps a forerunner of her coping style where she has maintained and conveyed a lightness of spirit, in the face of unending adversity.
On an ancestors head-stone, for one Benjamin Edhouse, there is the motto, "Courage in Adversity", - so fully exemplified in Hilary's life. She has taught me much.
Hilary and I worked together in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UNE, Armidale. When I started my position I found Hilary an accepting, supportive person in a somewhat daunting, male-dominated environment. I was inspired by Hilary's positive attitude to others and to life itself. Her fight against her illness was inspirational, as were her talents in so many different aspects of life (artist, mathematician, mother, friend). I always enjoyed seeing her, albeit sporadically (at conferences) after she left Armidale. She was a delight to be with!
My acquaintance with Hilary was confined to short conversations in the MSI Common Room, and discussions over the FOCUS crossword in the Canberra Times, a group effort to which we both contributed. She was always cheerful, despite her health problems, and very good at producing yet another unexpected word for our crossword exercise.
I also recall the time when I was given the job of disposing of Bernhard Neumann's ties and bow ties after his death. I went around to see all the male members of MSI, asking if they would like one as a souvenir. Hilary saw me, and said that one of her daughters was a member of her school's dramatic society: she would appreciate any ties that I could spare for their dramatic performances. So I handed over all my remaining stock, and Hilary later reported that the ties had proved very useful as theatrical props.
It was a rare privilege to have known Hilary; I am only sorry that her life has been cut short so early - I had hoped to see much more of her at the MSI, and get to know her better.
I remember one November evening when I was hosting our bookclub for the first time and we (John and I) were busy preparing nibbles and drinks, thinking we had another hour before anyone showed up. Cue a knock at the door and who should be there but Hilary. I'd only met her once or twice before and I think my surprise showed, as she asked if she was early and I did the very British thing of 'oh no, not really', then said, 'well, yes, about an hour early'. She'd not had a chance to read the email that day as she'd been doing something with her daughters immediately after work. She leant on the end of the bench and chatted away as we got everything ready and I got to find out a bit more about her, like she worked in bioinformatics and that we could collaborate on things. She was quite happy chatting with me and John as if we'd known her all our lives. The other thing I remember from that night is that we had the most fantastic thunderstorm, with purple flashes lighting up our bookish conversation.
She was always bringing interesting books to bookclub, that would be a break from the usual crime fiction or 'deep and meaningful chick books' that we usually read. When I heard the news that she had died, I was reading a quirky little book about miserable Icelanders that she'd brought to the club, enthusing wildly about. Now that book will remind me of her and her enthusiasm.
Hilary was one of my first 'external' contacts in bioinformatics and her friendliness, her enthusiasm for her work and her willingness to discuss it with us novices were all very much appreciated.
Although I did not know Hilary that well, we had had a few chats about computational biology and she was always enthusiastic and bright on the subject. Australia cannot afford to lose such people at their prime. Please pass on my condolences to her immediate family and friends.
I was shocked and saddened to hear about Hilary's death. I didn't know Hilary well, but I enjoyed the interactions that we did have and had been struck by how nice a person she was.
Hilary will be remembered by many for her scholarship, determination and generosity of spirit.
'Hilary and Leona' Our beginning was also your beginning
Antenatal classes; Lila & Jack a group of women, with their partners, role playing giving birth (second stage as I recall), anticipating one of the most intimate moments of their lives in a community hall in a room full of strangers.
Then, there was the moment, when two women looked across the room during 'practice moaning' and could barely contain their laughter, bellies rocking. Hilary and I, in that moment, recognised our kindred spirits. And as our bellies grew, so did our friendship. This friendship was cemented in the support we gave each as we came to terms with 'motherhood', as we strolled pushing strollers, cleaned up messy faces, messy bottoms and messy rooms; as we called each other in the morning; our telephone line our lifeline to each other, as we met up every week to take care of our friendship and sanity; as we talked and talked to remember who we were and to marvel at who we were becoming.
We used to talk about how much joy we felt watching you guys grow up and the wonder we had at the miracle of new life. We celebrated year in, year out our achievements and the milestones of our children. And then we lost touch don't know how but it happened. David and I moved overseas and Hilary and Craig moved around Australia. And just as randomly Hilary found my number and called me. To our surprise we found we had continued our journey along the same path study, careers, separation and divorce, plenty of soul searching and a deep desire for happiness while leaving a legacy of something wonderful in this world. So our friendship grew again, more mature with new commonalities sharing a mutual sense of wonderment and awe at the women we had become.
For me, I remember my friendship with Hilary as less a series of events and more our conversations; in our sharing of feelings, our anxieties, our fears and our joys. When I remember Hilary, I remember countless coffees, plenty of red wine, strolls along the beach, or in the bush or at the Art Gallery. I remember how, no matter what was going on for her, she always had time to hear my stuff. I know that Hilary and I always heard each other with a rare kind of unconditional love. We never knew where it came from and why we had this we both just knew it was one of the most precious parts of our lives. That no matter what we would always be there for each other. No judgements; just presence.
And so when I started to think about what to write, about what Hilary and I shared, a friendship which started with our motherhood experience; the joy, the worries, the hilarity of some of the situations, the pains, the love but most of all it was the surprise we both had at the strength of our love for our children; the unbelievable, unshakeable love that poured out of our heart and bodies towards our children. We used to spend hours marvelling over it (and gloating about how wonderful OUR children were) and the faith we had for you forging your own futures.
Hilary wanted to live her life by pushing out the edges; her career breaking new grounds, her thirst for knowledge and self-awareness, her art, her connection to music and nature, to literature and to spirit. Sometimes she even astounded herself with her accomplishments. Each one accompanied by the comment 'I can't believe I did that, it matters to me so much to be all I can be, to show my mum that I have done all she would have aspired to for me and for the girls to see what is possible in this world'.
Hilary wanted to leave a legacy; a legacy of two young women, strong yet centred in their femininity, able to support themselves emotionally and financially, to be independent, to choose happiness and love over fear, and to remember who they really are everyday and revel in it. Hilary wanted to leave the legacy of living life to the full, celebrating the great times and the challenges; a life of great love and passion, of truth and integrity.
Lila and Natalie, I want you both to know that Hilary had a deep and unshakeable faith in you because she could see your strength of characters; both different and yet grounded in your senses of yourselves. She mourned losing the next precious years with you; sharing your ups and downs, your loves, your babies, your careers and yet she did know that a part of her would journey with you. She never felt, that even in death, you would be separated. You would only have to think of your Mum and she would send energy, love and advice (naturally) in your direction. That sometimes you would feel a soft breeze against your cheek or see a rich, colourful vista, the red and golds of autumn and you would know your Mum is present with you. She is that star in the night sky that you notice first when you look up and appreciate the preciousness of human life, the gift of love and power of your own being.
These are the last things we shared in our deep, deep friendship and talked of in April. This is the legacy she has also left me. For this I am eternally grateful. I will always love Hilary and I know our friendship will beat death. Our friendship is beyond just this dimension of time and space. Hilary is more than just this dimension of time and space. Of this I am certain we will meet and love and celebrate again.
When I joined the MSI (then called SMS) I was very pleased to meet Hilary Booth who shared a passion for mathematics, its applications and, in particular, for connections between mathematics and computer science. She was a great help to me personally when I started to get involved in computational aspects in biology. In fact, the speed with which she was able to grasp this new application area and her knowledge of biology were legendary. One of my colleagues from the Australian Centre for Bioinformatics once pointed out to me that we were very fortunate to have Hilary in Canberra with her broad understanding of both mathematics and biology.
Over the four years I have known her, I got to value her critical judgment, her caring concern for the scientific development of her
students and junior colleagues and, maybe most importantly, her friendship and humor. Her career was severely influenced by her health problems but even so, she seemed to be much more concerned about the development of the junior scientists than about her own. Of course Hilary thrived in the environment of Sue Wilson's CBIS group in MSI where these caring attitudes were fostered. For me the interactions with this group have been really heartwarming in a world of science where competition and performance is often more highly valued than human values.
I learned about her health condition in detail about a year ago on a plane trip from Brisbane to Canberra. While not hiding the graveness, she was able to explain it to me with her own humor which helped us tremendously. In fact, remembering this attitude is for me the most important source of comfort at the end of her life. Two examples may illustrate her attitude. Some weeks ago, after some discussion about a paper and some software which I was able to contribute she suddenly showed me a scientific study which explained some aspects of her condition. She seemed flattered that her conditions got thoroughly studied in the scientific literature but as a scientist and she seemed also pleased to learn about rational explanations of conditions she had experienced personally. She was also proud of being a very long time survivor. I think she was aware that every day was a bonus and this awareness may actually have been one source of her extremely positive attitude to life. While I tried to call her in the last weeks while she was at home I was unfortunately unable to get through. However, I did get through by email and in the last email I got from her she encourages me to go ahead with some research plans but also talks about her own condition. She writes
I won't be much help for a while but don't write me off completely yet, I have made quite a few stunning recoveries in my time - hopefully this will be another. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.
She made it easy for us to believe that there would be yet another "stunning recovery" sadly, that was not to be.
Hilary has been a tremendous help in starting to establish our work in computational biology which will be discussed in two papers under preparation which she greatly influenced scientifically and which have her as a coauthor. She was a great asset as a coauthor due to her passion for writing and, in general, her creativity. She was constantly aware of the pressure to get out publications but was able to turn this pressure into a creative resource.
Hilary was not a computer scientist but she was able to pick up computer programming using a broad variety of tools and discussions of algorithms and CS tools very quickly. She was a great supporter of our "Extreme Programming Group" which took place during the Wednesday 13.00 pm meetings which Sue kindly let us hijack for this purpose. In those meetings, we discussed and developed various computational tools, and, in particular, our then two students Raymond and Shev got involved and our then new post-doc Lucia got started. We soon realized that there was rich mathematical structure but also an opportunity to contribute some nice tools and within record time we were able to get an understanding of the stochastic basis for the computational tools. Hilary was one of the main drivers of these meetings. One honors thesis did come out of this work in addition to several conference presentations, talks and papers and we are currently still capitalizing on the work started in the "Extreme Programming Group".
Finally, Hilary was constantly concerned that we contribute mathematics and computational tools which are of some value to biologists. She was able bring us back down to earth from sometimes esoteric trips into mathematical abstractions. With her outgoing nature she also got into contact with many researchers in related areas in biology, bioinformatics and mathematics. We are still benefiting from the network she helped establish and several visitors she invited are due to visit here in the near future.
We will certainly miss Hilary, her critical scientific insights and her friendship but we can draw from her scientific contributions, her
vision and her ideas about teaching and research for some time to come.
As all contributions so clearly and eloquently show, Hilary's life had great impact on everyone with whom she came in contact. Besides the insights into Hilary that have been shared, and with which we can all identify in a multitude of ways, I would like to share with you Hilary's contributions as a writer. Early in Hilary's life she embraced surrealism, as a writer (and artist). Later she was to turn both these skills to assist with scientific endeavours. In particular, her creative writing skills helped many researchers to be successful in grant applications, but her seminal participation was usually 'unsung'. Fortunately, by late 2005 her name appeared on two Australian Research Council Discovery Projects, for which she was rightly very proud; see this article.
I miss very much our extreme writing sessions, often sharing a desk with one of us keying, both of us laughing at double meanings, or sometimes various exchanges over email. Here is just one example of Hilary's bubbly wit. When we were checking the paper submission form for BioInfoSummer03, I sent a mildly humorous abstract, and Hilary produced, almost by instant return:
Knockout mice are well-studied in the Jesus Christ School of Medieval Research. However other punchdrunk rodents tend to be neglected. In little known experiments, genes were not entirely knocked out but altered at key residues. The mice that survived were remarkably indifferent to evolutionary pressure. Unexpected phenotypes resulted such as the mouse that roared, the quiet-as-a mouse, the mouse that came to dinner, the dirty rat that killed its brother, the mall rat, the rat in the hat, the skouse mouse, the rat in the hat that came back and a chihuahua. Three blind mice were also created but unfortunately they ran into the Jesus Christ School of Medieval Research canteen and lost their heads in an unfortunate accident with a carving knife.
Biochemical descriptions of gene regulatory processes have been frequently used and are often based on the kinetic rate equation framework. However, it was recognised (and this was introduced to us, e.g., in talks by K. Burrage) that noise is an important component of biological systems. Thus we moved to study stochastic formulations, in particular, the chemical master equations framework. However, we soon found that computational problems, the curse of dimensionality, were a big obstacle in any computations based on these equations. Much of our current work is about addressing these computational issues. In particular, the PhD research by Shev is using agglomeration techniques or the work with Lucia has considered a whole collection of approaches including the linear noise approximation. An alternative to the approaches we are currently developing is the stochastic simulation algorithm suggested by Gillespie and further developed by K. Burrage and collaborators.
Hilary has suggested here own approach to this problem which we informally called the "Hilary Method". It provides a combination of the kinetic rate equation ODE framework and the chemical master equation framework. Simply put, the method uses the master equations to model the noise of the switching behaviour of the genes and models the evolution of the protein levels using kinetic equations. This does make intuitive sense as the protein level production and the switching behaviour, at least for the lambda phages we were studying, do have totally different time scales. Furthermore, the protein production equations do lead to Poisson processes where mean protein levels characterise the distribution. In our work both Hilary and myself (both collaborating with Lucia and Conrad) have done some computational tests of this approach which supported Hilary's intuition. I believe that Hilary's method is related to the linear noise approximation but the nature of this connection would need some further investigations.
Finally, all these computations require a big number of reaction constants and Hilary, together with Conrad, was very much involved in extracting these constants from the literature and from current biological research and was even able to get us in contact with 2 active researchers in this area through her network.
I have somewhat more formally called it the "Booth model", which is a hybrid approach between the master equation (for switches) and simulation (for proteins), in the review paper. It makes intuitive sense, and has given rise to nice simulational "animation" of competing proteins. This section goes between Boolean models and macroscopic modelling.
'During Hilary's Armidale days I thought of her as a soulmate. I was an admin. assistant in the Maths Department at The University of New England at the time, and she was a PhD student. We often had coffee together. She was one of the few people with whom I felt I could share some of my innermost thoughts, and I would like to think she felt the same about me.
In spite of a slight age difference, we had a great deal in common. For example, we both painted, we loved new and exciting ideas, and we both had a great interest in people and were intrigued by the intricacies of personal relationships. Although we did not communicate frequently after she left Armidale, we did keep in touch, and it was always nice to know Hilary was there. It is hard to believe I no longer have her to talk to - she was truly a remarkable person.'
I just did a review of her work as was requested, and I noted at the end that her adverse situation had to be taken into account. I knew her (slightly) for a few years and she never mentioned her health challenges. What stamina and courage! My heart goes out to
her daughters, such a tough blow for them at such a critical time in their lives.
We first met in late November 2001 when you walked into my office at the ANU with Shev, who you thought needed to learn some Python programming. We quickly took the relationship further when you got me involved the combinatorial aspects of bio-informatics or 'sucked into the vortex' as you liked to say. You also got me involved with algorithms for matching proteins using your new Pozitiv algorithm.
I never told you how enjoyable it was for me to be part of this research and how much I appreciated working together with you but I guess you felt it too.
We quickly became good friends and started seeing each other socially. That friendship continued and grew deeper as you also got to know my wife Robyn. Three pictures are from our wedding 8 February 2003 where You, Steve, Lila and Natalie helped make the weekend very special. The painting you made of us as scuba divers decorates a wall in our bedroom.
Since then we enjoyed your company at dinner parties, concerts (such as Elvis Costello at the lake) and when you visited us at our 'bush farm in Wyndham. One time when you visited us there, Robyn was thinking about painting one wall terracotta. You gave us your paint left over from your dining room. Robyn finished up painting the entire house with that colour as shown in one of the photos. It looks great and along with the scuba painting always reminds us of you.
Hilary - a great colleague and friend. You showed us how to look for the pozitives, keep the right perspective whether it is in research or life matters - and never to waste energy on unimportant stuff.
It is a privilege to have known you. Thank you for sharing so much with us!
I was always struck by Hilary's remarkable creativity, and the fact that there was so little conflict between that and the rest of her professional life. Ironically, the starkly creative side of research (as distinct from the money-earning side, for example) is not particularly well supported in Australia, yet Hilary seemed relatively unfazed by this irony. Her unusual emotional strength seemed to carry her past all these obstacles.
I remember too that, when we sought a design for a MASCOS logo, Hilary's was the only one that combined attractiveness with relevance to the mathematical purposes of the Centre. In the end, Hilary's logo was not actually used, but I still think it was the best one.
I knew Hilary from the University of New England, Armidale, where we tutored some of the same courses. She was a cheerful and interesting person to work with, though I knew nothing of her medical problems. I left UNE in 1991 and hadn't been in touch with Hilary since. Then I saw the article of hers and others in the most recent AMS Gazette and initiated the email which I append below. (I didn't keep Hilary's reply but the mail I send out is automatically saved.) The second message is particularly poignant and shockingly non-prescient in the circumstances.
>Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 14:14:33 +1000 (EST)
>From: Peter Pleasants <email@example.com>
>Subject: Gazette article
>I've just read your article (with others) on gene regulation in the AMS >Gazette. Are you the Hilary Booth who was a tutor at UNE in 1991?
>>Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 18:08:51 +1000 (EST)
>>From: Peter Pleasants <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>To: Hilary Booth <email@example.com>
>>Subject: Re: Gazette article
>>> yes the same one now at ANU doing bioinformatics
>>Good, that's interesting. I'm at the University of Queensland. I've >>essentially retired, but I'm an Honorary Research Consultant, so I >>produce papers at a greater rate than ever before. I'm finding this a >>good time of life - no stress (or at least only self-inflicted stress) - you >>can look forward to getting to this stage.
I knew Hilary since our student days at Adelaide. News of her untimely death has hit me like a spear.
Hilary and I had an affinity, ever since our undergraduate days when we were both turned on by foundations of physics. It always struck me when we ran into each other at conferences years apart, that Hil hadn't changed. The smile and the vivacity were just the same, despite all her setbacks. She had an impressive wide range of interests in arts, physics, mathematics and biology, as well as people, to whom she was a loyal friend. We have lost someone very special but she certainly lived life to the full, and achieved much in her short time.
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. The honours examination committee had just adjourned. Hilary and Linda had been in there defending my thesis. For the last hour of so, I had been pacing up and down the corridors of the Department with butterflies in my tummy.
Finally caught up with Hilary in her office. With little decorum, I blurt out probably the most import question of my education so far, "What's my result?"
With a cheeky smile and a twinkle in her eye she replied, "I can't tell you. You know until it become offical." Ending it off with a tiny laugh as if to say I know something you don't.
Thats how I remember her. Bringing a little silliness to the most dreadfully serious of affairs. A little reminder to aways look on the
bright side of life.
My name is Robyn and I am a part time admin assistant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science at UNE where Hilary studied.
The Office Manager Margaret McDonald and myself were just sitting and talking about Hilary and I reminded Margaret about the time we were having morning tea and were talking about how parents should always double check children's names before they make a final decision e.g. Sean Lamb, Ivan Droop (I. Droop).
Hilary sat there quietly listening to our conversation when she said "I can do better than that. I went to school with twins named Angela Ness and Peter Ness, so their names were Aness and Pness." I had a mouth full of tea that sprayed everywhere and the whole tearoom was in fits of laughter.
Forty five minutes later she rang me and she could tell by my voice that I was still laughing. She said "surely you are not still laughing about Angela and Peter." I have told that story so many times.
Hilary was a lovely person who will be sadly missed by family and friends. May she rest in peace.
Hilary was a delightful person, so cheerful and kind and helpful, and will be greatly missed by all her friends at ANU and beyond.
We are all most grateful to Rowena Ball and Miranda Ball for putting the contributions into a flowing order, and making the layout so attractive.
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In loving memory of Hilary.