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Professor Herbert Sydney (Bert) Green

herbert greenBorn: December 17, 1920
Died: February 16, 1999

Professor Herbert Sydney Green was appointed to the first Chair of Mathematical Physics in 1951. His arrival and subsequent service brought an international recognition to the University which continues to this day.

Bert Green was born in 1920 in Ipswich and graduated from Imperial College with a B.Sc. in 1941. He served with the RAF as a meteorological officer, and then became a student of Nobel Laureate Max Born at Edinburgh, being awarded not only a Ph.D. (1947) but also a D.Sc. (1949), the latter for his seminal work with Born on the molecular theory of liquids. As formulators of the "BBGKY equations", Born and Green became co-founders of modern many-body theory.

By the time he reached Adelaide, Green was publishing work on the structure of cosmic ray showers. Within two years, his field of research became quantized fields and particle physics, when he invented "parastatistics", a permutation symmetry of identical particles which sits between the conventional statistics of photons and electrons. Through the rest of his life, Green worked out many extensions of this idea. Indeed, research in this area continues, most of it based on the Green Ansatz of the original 1953 paper.

Bert Green's originality, independence, and variety of research interests made him the ideal person to lead the Department of Mathematical Physics. The success of the Department was of great importance to the University, as mathematical physics is a vast enterprise internationally.

Green spread his interests not only to standard topics such as plasma physics, statistical mechanics, gravitation and general relativity, and group theory, but to emerging areas like artificial intelligence and environmental protection. With Rainer Radok and John Hails, he investigated the hazards of a projected petrochemical plant at Redcliffs, and persuaded a reluctant government to abandon it because the consequences for the head of Spencer Gulf would be dire.

In his later years, in work with Professor Terry Triffet, Green wrote extensively on the physics of the brain and the mechanism of consciousness, culminating in the book "Sources of Consciousness"
(1997). His last book, "Physics, Information and the Observer", to be published by Springer, was completed last December despite his suffering from lymphoma. It sets out his view of physics, including a severe criticism of the "big bang" theory of the origin of the Universe. Altogether he wrote nine books and over 150 papers. His book on "Matrix Mechanics" was published in four languages.

Although Bert suffered from severe deafness for most of his life, he enjoyed concerts and social occasions, being always an excellent host. He had little taste for administration, but when required to do so, as Head of Department or Dean of the Faculty, was conscientious, kindly, efficient and understanding. Whilst he was President of the Australian Mathematical Society (1974-76), he threw himself whole-heartedly into the ultimately successful campaign to free the imprisoned Ukrainian mathematician, Leonid Plyush.

Bert Green is survived by his wife Marlies, son Roy and daughter Johanne and their spouses, and five grandchildren. He is also survived by hundreds of students inspired by his teaching, of which 23 were his research students, and 10 now occupy chairs throughout the world.

A full description of Bert Green's academic life is recorded in this article by Angas Hurst.

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