Nicola Williams (nee Donkin)

  • CHS 1951-1957
  • Head Prefect in 1957
  • Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Monash University 
  • Currently Curator of the Faculty of Science Instrument Collection at Monash University 

Nicola Williams (née Donkin) BSc; Dip.Ed (Melbourne); MSc (Monash); FRACI , was a former Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Monash University and former Sub-Dean of the Faculty of Science at Monash University.

After completing BSc and Dip. Ed. at the University of Melbourne, Nicola taught chemistry, maths and general science at Springvale High School.

In 1963 Nicola married Mike, then Chief Engineer on the MV Wharangoa (New Zealand Shipping Company), and spent most of the next 15 months at sea with him. Their first child, Rachel, was born in England in 1965, then they moved to live in Sydney, where Stephanie was born in 1967. Ivan was born just after they returned to Melbourne in 1970.

While busy with small children Nicola did private tutoring in maths and chemistry. She’d spent two years as a part-time chemistry demonstrator at Monash before leaving Australia, and continued this job upon returning to Melbourne. She gradually increased her appointment fraction in chemistry to 0.5, and in 1984 was also appointed Subdean of the Faculty of Science, a position she held for 11 years. She was appointed to Senior Lecturer in chemistry (0.5) in 2000, and retired from that position early in 2002.

Nicola has also been very active in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, especially in chemical education activities. Her research interests were in Inorganic Kinetics, in which she completed a part-time MSc in 1982, and Biological Chemistry, but shifted later into History of Science, particularly old instruments.

Nicola and Mike have always been keen bushwalkers and campers, and have now had several long trips exploring this huge country, navigating by National Parks and old mining towns. They are active members of the Australasian Mining History Association, and also members of the Royal Society of Victoria, of which Nicola is a Council member.

They have two granddaughters, and all three of their children are involved in science-related careers. Mike retired early from marine engineering, and has completed a PhD in Australian history at Monash.

Addendum: I continue as Curator of the Faculty of Science Instrument Collection, with an emphasis on measuring instruments, especially analytical balances. I have an ongoing collaboration with a UK scientist who is currently writing a history of the balance firm of Oertling, and one of my interests is to track down and photograph any ‘export Oertlings’ I can find. These beautiful instruments were imported from UK, Europe and USA to cope with the assay demand from the goldfields, and were also needed by Mints, industry and educational institutions. We have now (as of November 2012) located 244 surviving Southern Hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) Oertling balances, and the hunt continues. Updated 2020

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