Cheryl Praeger

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Cheryl Praeger
Praeger Peter Neumann.jpg
Cheryl Praeger (left) with Peter Neumann, Oberwolfach, 2007
Born (1948-09-07)7 September 1948
Toowoomba, Queensland
Nationality Australian
Fields group theory, algebraic graph theory and combinatorial designs
Institutions University of Western Australia
Alma mater University of Queensland, University of Oxford
Doctoral advisor Peter M. Neumann

Cheryl Elisabeth Praeger, AM, FAA, (born 7 September 1948, Toowoomba, Queensland) is an Australian mathematician. Praeger received BSc (1969) and MSc degrees from the University of Queensland (1974), and doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1973 under direction of Peter M. Neumann. She has published widely and has advised 20 PhD students (as of May 2008). She is currently a professor of mathematics at the University of Western Australia. She is best known for her works in group theory, algebraic graph theory and combinatorial designs.


Praeger completed her high school education at Brisbane Girls Grammar School. After graduating high school, Praeger went to the government vocational guidance section to inquire about how she could further study mathematics. The vocational guidance officer she spoke with tried to discourage her from studying mathematics further[citation needed], suggesting she become a teacher or a nurse because two other girls who came to him wanting to study math weren't able to pass their courses.[citation needed] He reluctantly showed her an engineering course description, but she felt it didn't have enough mathematics. So she left without getting much information that day, but did continue on to receive her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Queensland.

Having met several women on the mathematics staff during her undergraduate studies, the prospect of becoming a mathematician didn't seem strange to her. During her first and second years she did honours studies in mathematics and physics, choosing to continue in mathematics after her second year.[citation needed] After completing her education at University of Queensland she was offered a research scholarship at ANU but chose instead to take the Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Oxford and attended St Anne's College. At that point she knew she wanted to study algebra.

After earning her doctorate in 1973 she had a research fellowship at ANU. She had her first opportunity at teaching regular classes at the University of Virginia during the semester she worked there. Afterwards she returned to ANU where she met her future husband, John Henstridge, who was studying Statistics. She was later offered a short-term position at the University of Western Australia, which turned into a long term position, where she currently works today.[1]

She has taught in the Mathematics and Statistics program at UWA and was Head of the Department of Mathematics 1992–1994, inaugural Dean of Postgraduate Research Studies 1996–1998, Chair Promotions and Tenure Committee 2000–2004, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Computing and Mathematics 2003–2006, ARC Professorial Fellow 2007.[2] and ARC Federation Fellow in 2009.

During her career, Praeger has been invited to speak at many conferences, including ones in the following locations: South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Morocco, Slovenia, Oberwolfach, France, Germany, USSR, Belgium, Iran, the Philippines, and Japan.[1][3]

Awards, honours and memberships[edit]

Praeger is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, former president of the Australian Mathematical Society (1992–1994), and was appointed as a member of the Order of Australia in 1999 for her service to mathematics in Australia, especially through research and professional associations.[4] In 2003 she received the Centenary Medal of the Australian Government.[3] She was awarded an honorary DSc by the Prince of Songkla University in 1993, by the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2005,by Yazd University in 2015 and by the University of Saint Andrews in 2015. In 2007 she was awarded an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship grant[5] She was named WA Scientist of the Year in 2009.[6] In 2011 she was awarded the Moyal Medal by Macquarie University, in 2013 the Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal by the Australian Academy of Science and in 2014 the George Szekeres Medal by the Australian Mathematical Society. In 2012 she became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[7] In 2014 she was elected an Honorary Member of the London Mathematical Society.[8] In 2015 she was inducted into both the Western Australian Women's Hall of Fame and the Western Australian Science Hall of Fame. Also in 2015 she was awarded the Mehdi Behzad Prize of the Iranian Mathematical Society, for management in mathematics.

Praeger has also held memberships with the Combinatorial Mathematics Society of Australasia, Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications, Australian Mathematics Trust, American Mathematical Society, and the London Mathematical Society. Her past affiliations have not been limited to academia. She has also been a member of the Curriculum Development Center of the Commonwealth Schools Commission, Science Advisory Committee, WISET Advisory Committee to the Federal Minister for Science on participation of women in Science, Engineering, and Technology, UWA Academy of Young Mathematicians Lectures, the Western Australian School Mathematics Enrichment Course Tutor, and Data Analysis Australia Pty Ltd. She has also served on the Australian Federation of University Women (Western Australian Branch) and the Nedlands Primary School Council.[3]

Personal life[edit]

In August 1975 she married John Henstridge in Brisbane. They have two children, James (1979) and Tim (1982).[1]

In addition to holding a doctorate in mathematics, she also holds an AMusA in piano performance and is a member of the University of Western Australia Collegium Musicum. She has been a member of the Uniting Church in Australia, Nedlands Parish since 1977, functioned as an elder from 1981–1987, and as an organist since 1985. She lists keyboard music among her stronger interests along with sailing, hiking, and cycling.[3]

Praeger also promotes the involvement of women in mathematics by encouraging girls in primary and secondary schools with lectures, workshops, conferences and through Family Maths Program Australia (FAMPA), which she was key in implementing in local primary schools.[3]


Praeger's key research is in Group Theory and Combinatorics, including Analysis of algorithms and complexity, Discrete Mathematics and Geometry. She was first published in 1970 while still an undergraduate. As of April 2013, she has 328 publications total.

She has co-authored several papers on symmetric graphs and distance-transitive graphs and with Tony Gardiner. She has also co-authored several papers with Peter Cameron, including the proof of Sims' Conjecture in 1983.

With Jan Saxl and Martin Liebeck, she has co-authored papers on many topics including: permutation groups, primitive permutation groups, simple groups, and almost simple groups.[9] Together they co-authored "On the O'Nan Scott Theorem for primitive permutation groups" it pertains to the classification of finite simple groups, namely the classification of finite primitive permutation groups.[10] The paper contains a complete self-contained proof of the theorem. Praeger later went on to generalise the O'Nan-Scott Theorem to quasiprimitive groups.

Selected publications[edit]


External links[edit]