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Charles Angas Hurst (22 Sep 1923 - 19 Oct 2011) was the second child of Walter William Hurst and Audrey Carrie Alexandra Morris. He was born in Unley Park, South Australia, but grew up in Hawthorn, Victoria, where he attended Scotch College, and was dux of both the Preparatory and Senior Schools.
He started on a Bachelor of Arts/Science at the University of Melbourne, but this was interrupted by the war years. He saw active service as commander of a radar station on Manus Island, north of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, and in subsequent years rose to the rank of Wing Commander through the University of Adelaide Squadron of the RAAF.
Following his return to civilian life, he resumed his studies at the University of Melbourne, completing his BA with first class honours (1947) and BSc (1948), and then was successful in obtaining a scholarship to the University of Cambridge where he completed a PhD under the supervision of Dr James (Jim) Hamilton.
Angas returned to Australia in 1952, and a post as Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mathematics, University of Melbourne. In 1956 he was offered a position of Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Physics at the University of Adelaide, where in conjunction with Prof H. S. Green, he developed the Department of Mathematical Physics to the point where it held an enviable international reputation. He was promoted to Reader in 1961, and then a personal chair in 1964. He retired in 1988, but continued an active association with the University of Adelaide as Emeritus Professor until his death in Oct 2011.
He held many senior positions during his career, appointed as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1972, awarded an honorary DSc by the University of Melbourne in 1991, and awarded an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) for his services to education and research in mathematical physics by the Australian Government in 2003. He was Vice President of the Australian Academy of Science (1984-1985) and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide (1986-1988).
He is survived by his wife, three children, and four grandchildren.
These are recorded on separate pages:
Angas Hurst was the second in line of four generations of PhD graduands, an achievement that I do not know is equalled anywhere in the world. The fact that Angas's father, Walter, was the first South Australian PhD graduate of Cambridge University may reinforce that hypothesis. Here is what is known:
The funeral service for Charles Angas Hurst was held at the Clayton-Wesley Uniting Church on 26 Oct 2011. Eulogies by his brother, and son, are included below.
A Memorial Service to Charles Angas Hurst was held by the University of Adelaide on 7 Feb 2012, in the Elder Hall at the university. Tributes were given by (list).
Angas has been part of my universe for 78 years.
Apart from my sister Valwyn, present today, I’m sure I’ve known him longer than anybody else.
We each come to a funeral with our own perspective – reflections on the person we have known, admired and, in many cases, loved.
The task of those who speak is to communicate their perspective, so that we can go away enriched by hearing insights of which we were previously unaware. And, in so doing, we come closer to the whole person.
My perspective is Angas as a brother.
I think of the early years, growing up in Melbourne. The Depression years were hard, far harder than subsequent years. But we were insulated by loving parents who, by the standards of the times, had adequate resources.
We had an extra-ordinary amount of freedom and were able to use it. We both attended the same school – Scotch College – although at different ends of the age range. Indeed Angas, whose approach to punctuality throughout his life continued to be “just-in-time”, used to walk with me the mile journey to school, making no allowance for the capabilities of a five year old. When I inadvertently set off in my slippers, thereby slowing him down, I was suitably castigated.
His time at school was triumphant, and it was inevitable that he would finish up as dux of the school.
I think of the war years, disruptive to our family as to so many others. After one year at university, he joined the RAAF in the field of radar. Before long at the age of twenty he was commanding a radar establishment in PNG, never having seen an administrative file. On his leave (much anticipated by me), I remember him digging a trench, cutting down 50ft poplars and teaching me boxing. The latter involved my being knocked, reasonably gently, into the adjoining mint bushes, getting up and being knocked into them again. To this day I don’t warm to the smell of mint. We did, however, play a great deal of tennis that was highly competitive.
I think of the postwar years, marrying Barbara in 1945, also here today, and going together to Cambridge to study in 1948. The time there was the beginning of his distinguished academic career, and his return to the University of Melbourne was the first rung on the ladder.
Before moving to Adelaide in 1957, he attended Dorothy’s and my wedding, and was an enthusiastic guest, reluctant to leave. So much so, that, on driving off for our honeymoon, we found him in the back seat saying that he wanted to look after his little brother.
Thereafter we were in different spheres, although we did meet overseas from time to time. Others will refer to his huge achievements academically, the love of an extending family and his place in Adelaide’s community.
He was greatly loved by our four children, all of whom have travelled to be here today. As an example, when our youngest was about three she learned that Uncle Angas would be visiting and was overcome with expectation. As it turned out, he had to divert to see Professor le Couteur and so arrived at our place later than expected. She was overwrought, and lay on the floor sobbing. Angas’s comment on arrival was that, if the situation had been reversed, he rather doubted whether le Couteur would have behaved in quite that fashion.
What was important in shaping his life?
Clearly, our parents and a strong sense of family. He had throughout his life a great admiration and love for our father which strongly influenced the direction his life took. His time in Cambridge mirrored Dad’s pioneering spell there twenty five years earlier. Our mother was very different – a feisty character who nurtured Angas’s Christian faith.
Second was his towering and enquiring intelligence, supported by a daunting memory. Others can testify to how this was a factor in his academic success, but it shone through in everything he did.
Third was his concern for the society he lived in. His membership of the Labor Party was one way in which he tried to influence the world he inhabited. At the university level he was passionate in combating injustice which, I’m told, occasionally arises there.
Fourth was his love for people. We shall hear from his immediate family, but I’m sure there are many here who have been touched by his goodwill and compassion. Perhaps I can slip in his wicked sense of humour, often self-disparaging – the best sort..
But, finally, I return to the significance of his lifelong Christian faith – a stunning example of how a great scientific intellect and an evolving Christianity can co-exist. From his early days at the Augustine Congregational Church in Hawthorn to his final days he was questing and growing – unlike the often-stultifying trend to conservatism that can come with age, his final position was far more radical than the starting point.
In one of our last conversations, we discussed our favourite hymns – and, to my surprise, our choices coincided. They are nineteenth century hymns, and intellectually we may have outgrown their theology. However, they have touched both of us throughout our lives in a way that mere theological analysis cannot touch.
One, I am glad to say, is being sung today. [Gather us in - 326 (George Matheson)]
I finish with two individual verses.
The first from the poetess, Jean Ingelow “And didst thou love the race that loved not thee”
And the second from the American Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier
I was driving in the city with my brother-in-law a few days ago, and we found ourselves in Angas St – A-N-G-A-S. “Look”, I said to Richard, “they've already named a street after Dad."
The spelling of Dad's name “Angas” was peculiarly South Australian, but his family moved to Melbourne early in his life, where he was educated, and first met the woman he was later to marry. As Neville has mentioned, his early schooling was a harbinger of his later life - he was dux at Scotch College. Incidentally, modesty forbade Neville to mention that he was dux 10 years later.
Dad married Barbara Stevens once the war was over, but only because of my mother's forgiving nature. A story he told at Barbara's sister Alison's funeral recently reflects his audacious nature. Apparently, just after Barbara's family had returned to Melbourne after an absence of some years, he was re-introduced to her. In his words, "some madness came over me, and I asked Alison to kick Barbara in the bum - which she duly did!" It was some years before their relationship became normal enough for my father to start taking a more romantic interest in Barbara!
Sadly, Dad could not attend Alison's funeral, because he had just been admitted to hospital, and so I was asked to read those words. They seem all the more poignant now.
I first came on the scene after Dad had married (no real surprise there!), and my first memories are of life in Cambridge, while Dad was completing his PhD. His university studies had been interrupted by the war, and for many years I had little inkling of what it was he actually did during the war. In recent years Dad started recording his memories of his war service, and I have to say that I found them most insightful. His was not a war blinkered by propaganda and slogans, but a view from a hot seat in Papua New Guinea, where he was in command of a radar station. He was under no illusions about the chaos and confusion of war-time operations, and this must have prepared him well for future life in the university!
Space does not permit me to cover the vast number of achievements in Dad's academic career. There will be another time and place to visit those. Suffice to say that I have been overwhelmed by the number of tributes that have been flowing in from all over the world. A single quote will give you the flavour of these: "I am incredibly sad to hear of the passing of my great supervisor and dear friend." He was also recognized in a more formal way through two awards, of which I know he was very proud. He was awarded an Honorary DSc by the University of Melbourne for his work in statistical mechanics, and was recognized as a Member of the Order of Australia for "For service to science, particularly in the field of mathematical physics as an educator, researcher and administrator".
One of my proud memories of Dad was the realization of how I had followed in his footsteps, almost accidentally. I became an academic as well, and the height of my career came when I was elected as Chair of the Academic Board at Monash University. When I told Dad of this, he pointed out that he also had served as Chair of the Education Committee of the University of Adelaide, the equivalent peak academic board of the university, some 30 years earlier! I had known of Dad's service to the academic community through his time on that committee, but I had not made the connection about its equivalence. I think Dad was pleased, too.
Dad was always an eclectic person. Nowhere is this better exemplified for me than through his deep faith and inquiring mind. As an academic, he had no hesitation in taking on atheists and agnostics in discussion about God, Christian and the human condition, He was a man of dignity, but also a man of downright earthiness. Amongst his books are works by Dirac, Hilbert and Feynman (mathematical physicists), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S.Lewis and Bishop Spong (theologians), and also "The Penguin Book of Snatches and Lays", and "The Australian Book of Slang".
Dad had a practical use for his theoretical knowledge. When we went to Edinburgh in 1961 by ship, we had a number of suitcases, trunks and the like, some of which went into the hold, some of which went into the cabin. We had about 9 items in all - they had a much bigger baggage allowance in those days! All the cases had their own locks, and Dad saw a problem with matching the keys to their cases. Each case got a number, but the keys were too small to write a number on. But Dad had three pots of different colour paint, and with two dots of paint he could identify 9 different keys! In looking through his apartment the other day, I found an old case still tagged "SS Iberia", numbered 5, and with a pink and blue dot on it. So pink and blue meant 5, but I have no idea where the matching key is! I do recall that the ship's purser was most impressed with Dad's system, and so was I, but that was well before I studied non-decimal radix number systems and knew how he arrived at this solution – and how, up until last year, I was busy teaching about them to students!!
He could rejoice in both the sublime and the ridiculous. When I was still living at home, he thought that it would be good for the two of us to undertake some evening classes - in woodwork. He duly signed us up at Norwood Tech (as it then was), and we started classes under the avuncular eye of one Colin Burchett. Colin had sized us up pretty well (I had done woodwork classes at primary school, and Dad knew which end of a hammer to hold). He left us to our own devices on the projects we took up, me a cabinet for my Meccano set, Dad a set of cupboards for the bathroom. Several weeks went by as we made progress on our projects. The time came for Dad to fit the doors to his cupboard, when he found to his horror that, between the two doors, there was a six inch gap in the middle! On reflection, we worked out that when Dad converted the 3ft width to inches, he was years ahead of his time, he decimalised it, and called it 30 inches, not 36! (This will be lost on the younger generation here :-) Colin could not contain himself. "Call yourself a mathematical physicist!" he kept saying. Dad took it in good humour. He was not one to stand on dignity in such circumstances!
I have mentioned Dad's faith, and his enthusiasm for the gospel. I owe a great deal to him for this, because while studying science I suffered my own doubts and misgivings. But Dad was able to address all those misgivings, citing authoritative sources for his arguments. I well remember in my matriculation exams that there was a mixup, and some students got more time than others. I was swayed by the vehemence of those who had not received extra time, but Dad reminded me of the parable of the vineyard workers, and the fact that God's grace is not contractual. A big lesson for a 17-year old!
Dad was also very much a family man. I enjoyed sharing with him a mug or two of his home made beer, and we had many happy hours talking about wine. He loved being with family and sharing his love of food and wine with us. I am sad that for many years I have not lived in Adelaide, and have therefore partly missed his doting love of his grandchildren. He was immensely proud of his grandchildren, the pinnacle of which, for me, was Nathan, his grandson, completing his PhD. Dad attended Nathan's graduation at which he wore his great-grandfather's PhD gown, and I read the names for the graduation. Four generations of PhDs at the one occasion! But he was also in his element on family holidays, when he would love to tell us stories and jokes (not many of which I can repeat here!) from his vast repertoire.
These are the memories that I will cherish.
(email tributes to be recorded here.)
I believe we met during one of our visits in 1987 or 1991. We only knew a few days ago of the death of Angas, although we have had no news of him, in the past year or so, when we have been heavily involved in moving house. However, he and Barbara were such good friends to us, that I want to help complete the picture of his and Barbara’s life, Roy Chisholm.
Angas Hurst and I began together as research students in the Dirac group, organised by Nick Kemmer, in 1948. Angas had served in the Australian air force for several years, but I had entered Cambridge three years earlier as a fresh-faced lad of eighteen. In spite of this difference in experience, we became good friends and after began to think of ideas for research. Angas chose a more mathematical approach, and I floundered around until I found a systematic way of performing Feynman graph calculations. By this time, Angas and I and Behram Kursunoglu had a new supervisor. We realised later that Angas’s work on strictly structured model field theories, and my systematisation, were both quite important developments, but we were disappointed not to receive much encouragement from our supervisor. Nevertheless, we both obtained our doctorates in 1952. Our research group also contained Paul Matthews, Richard Eden, and later, Sam Edwards and Abdus Salam.
I met Barbara Hurst occasionally, but our family friendship really dates from the evening of the Christ’s and Trinity May Balls in 1950. I had met Monty, now my wife for sixty years, earlier that year, and had invited her to the Christ’s Ball. Our ticket allowed us to visit Trinity Ball, and just outside Trinity, we met Angas and Barbara. As we waited in a small queue to enter the College, we started a conversation with another Ball-goer and his partner. This gentleman invited us up for a bite of supper, and we climbed up to an amazingly long room, with a table which seemed to be the length of a cricket pitch, laden with a mass of food of near-infinite variety. We were the only guests, and, fortified by excellent champagne, we supped for half an hour before joining the dancing. Next day, I told Angas how kind his friend was to ask us to supper; Angas replied, ‘What friend? I’ve never seen him before. I thought he was your friend.’
After one more year, Angas departed for Australia and I went to Glasgow. But despite the variety of places we both visited, we kept in touch by mail over years and decades, relating stories of travels and families. Angas always urged me to come to Adelaide, which never happened, until he wrote in 1986 to say that he was Deputy Boss, but was retiring in two years: ‘If you don’t come next year, that’s it. Incidentally, you can stay in our Granny flat attached to the house.’ As our children were all in their twenties, we went for a term, and had a wonderful time living next to Angas and Barbara, and having the great pleasure of sharing their lives, and I got to know Angas’s group of mathematical physicists. Strong in our memories are the obligatory fish-and-chips on Saturday evenings, the lovely Jacarandas along fifth Avenue, and the beautiful cycling along the Torrens river. We were very fortunate that Angas’s successor, Paul Davies, invited me again in 1991, and we again thoroughly enjoyed the pleasures of life in totally different natural surroundings, and sharing again with Angas and Barbara; they were very generous to Monty and me. I was able to arrange final seven-week visit to Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. Since then, Angas and I kept in touch by e-mail until his death.
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