At 94, David steps up as oldest PhD

Oldest PhD graduates aged 94, a year ahead of schedule

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WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT: David Bottomley and his wife Anne on graduation day.

WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT: David Bottomley and his wife Anne on graduation day.


And he's not finished yet, hoping to "stir the creative pot” a little more.


For Australia’s oldest PhD graduate, David Bottomley, learning is a life-long journey.

At 94, Dr Bottomley was awarded a doctor of philosophy at Curtin University after completing his thesis, which examined the teaching methods of five progressive English educators who introduced an understanding of science into the curriculum from 1816-85.

Dr Bottomley, a Melbourne-based father of four, grandfather of 13 and great-grandfather of one, said he completed his PhD part-time and finished in seven years – a year ahead of schedule.

“The first feeling I had was one of relief and utter numbness – I think that’s a feeling shared by most postgraduate students after any big exam or assignment,” Dr Bottomley said.

“I had been working on it for so many years and I suddenly had permission to come out of my academic cave and wasn’t quite sure what to do with all my free time.”

And even though he intends to make use of that by going to the cinema, taking walks in the park and spending more time with his wife  of 68 years, Anne, he  already has plans to continue his education studies.

“I’m already looking at more ways to apply and improve my basic skills, and hopefully help stir the creative pot,” Dr Bottomley said.

“I believe the ideas of the headmasters I studied are worth repeating today in order to instil that creativity and sense of learning in the next generation.

“I hope to extend my doctorate finding on the impact of creativity in school curricula and I am already thinking of ways the lessons learnt through my PhD can be applied to today’s school students as well as among Australia’s ageing population.”

Dr Bottomley said he wanted to complete his PhD at Curtin in order to work with John Curtin Distinguished Professor David Treagust, from Curtin’s School of Education, who supervised his thesis, titled “Science, Education and Social Vision of Five Nineteenth Century Headmasters”.

“To me, education is something you live in; it’s a life force as (Nobel Prize in Literature 1925 recipient) George Bernard Shaw might have called it,” Dr Bottomley said.

Starting his career as a school science master in Albury, NSW in 1946, Dr Bottomley then worked in social and market research in England, Australia and Asia for 60 years before completing a masters by research degree at the University of Melbourne.