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Jean Thompson

Jean Thompson in her office at the Appled Mathematics Division in about 1982. Photo: Supplied.

Mathematician (1940-)

Jean Thompson always knew numeracy was her thing. But when she tried to take a technical course at the start of high school, Thompson was told it was for boys only. Finally in sixth form, she and another girl were permitted to take physics, but told they couldn’t succeed. Thompson came first in the class, the other girl second.

At university in the late 1950s, Thompson found that statistics was not a degree subject. So after a BSc in mathematics and physics, she learnt ‘apprenticeship style’ at work, later taking advanced statistics courses as they became available. Thompson spent 30 years working at the Applied Mathematics Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. She used New Zealand’s first scientific computer, an Elliot 503, enabling analyses that had not been practical before.

Thompson was President of the New Zealand Statistical Association, worked for many years as a consultant, and was instrumental in the 1995 publication of a book Women with maths: making a difference.

For more information:

New Zealand Statistical Association, ‘Women with maths: making a difference’, 1995.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.