The first woman to graduate from the University of Ballarat's School of Mines, Dr Jan Watson, has died aged 94.
A prolific and respected marine biologist, as well as one of the first female scuba divers, Dr Jeanette Watson AM died on Sunday.
Her daughter Avril Ayling said she was still diving until last year, exploring the bays and testing new scuba gear for the University of Melbourne.
Dr Watson, a distinguished alumni at Federation University and founding life member of the Victorian Sub-Aqua Group, began her career studying applied chemistry in Ballarat - she noted she was "laughed at" when she signed up to study geology.
"Originally when I said I wanted to go to the School of Mines my mother did not like it. My father paid the first term's fee and he said 'don't fail'," Dr Watson told The Courier last year.
"I went to the office at the School of Mines and said I wanted to be a geologist. They looked a bit askance at me and sent me to the principal's office.
"The old principal roared laughing. He said 'a woman can't be a geologist' but he let me study applied chemistry instead.
"I just enjoy finding out things."
Born and raised in Ballarat, she spent her later years on the Bellarine Peninsula, still visiting her laboratory as much as she could.
In a career that took her around the world, she discovered hundreds of new species and submitted hundreds of scientific papers and articles, as well as founding her own marine environment consultancy business, one of the first in Australia.
Ms Ayling said her mum was always humble about her life, but "she's a part of Australian history, which she never recognised".
"Us kids used to go on Mum's geology excursions from RMIT when she was teaching there, and we'd always know more than the other students," she said with a laugh.
"When she started diving, in about 1950, she was one of the very, very first women - there might have been two others - to start diving, so as kids, we went out in our little clinker from Warneet out to Crawfish Rock in Western Port Bay.
"We started looking at the marine life underwater, and that hadn't actually been done before, she was one of the very first to look at marine organisms underwater and see them alive.
"She became interested in hydroids (a relative of jellyfish) in particular, and took them, the live ones, to the national museum - all the specimens in the museum are pickled and rather dried up, so the curator couldn't actually tell her what the names of these things were.
"Mum had to find out for herself, and eventually she became a world-recognised expert in the identification of marine hydroids, she went to many conferences around the world, she published over 50 papers on their taxonomy.
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"She went to Russia for one of her hydroid conferences, on the Trans-Siberian Rail all by herself, and saw the Japanese emperor - he was interested in hydroids too, so she had an audience with him where they talked about hydroids.
"She was a woman who made a difference, and started off many careers in marine biology."
Dr Watson leaves three children, numerous grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
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