Vale Peter Fensham


We are very sad to have to pass on the news that Professor Peter Fensham passed away on 23 August 2021 aged 93 years. Peter was one of the 123 founding members of AARE, as a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. In 1991, Peter delivered the Radford Lecture, titled “Common Sense Knowledge: A Challenge to Research” that sounds as topical today as it undoubtedly was then.

Peter contributed enormously to education and education research in Australia. He was Professor of Science Education at Monash University from 1967 until 1992 when he retired and was Dean of Education from 1981 to 1988. Under his leadership a nationally and internationally renowned centre of scholarship in science education developed at Monash. Prior to taking up the Chair at Monash he had been Reader in Chemistry at Melbourne University. He held a PhD in social psychology (Cambridge) and a PhD in Chemistry (Bristol). On retirement he spent a number of years as an Adjunct Professor at QUT.

Peter was the first national President of the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) and of the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE), founder of the Australian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia. He was also actively involved in the International Organisation for Science and Technology Education and in UNESCO. He also contributed science curriculum development in a number of jurisdictions and especially those linking science technology and society.

Peter pursued social justice and equity with energy. One of his important and influential books was titled Science for All. He had been an early member of Pugwash (concerned with science for social responsibility) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and he campaigned for immigration reform in Australia. He also committed to enriching his local community through participation in many community organisations and forums concerned with making life better for a wider range of people.

Our condolences go out to his family and friends.

With thanks to John Ainley and Dick White