Helen Alma Newton Turner

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Helen A. Newton Turner

Helen Alma Newton Turner 1973.jpg
Newton Turner in 1973
Born15 May 1908 (1908-05-15)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died26 November 1995(1995-11-26) (aged 87)
Chatswood, Sydney
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
Known forResearch into sheep genetics
AwardsFarrer Memorial Medal
Scientific career
FieldsGenetics, statistics
InstitutionsCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Helen Alma Newton Turner AO OBE (15 May 1908 – 26 November 1995) was an Australian geneticist and statistician. She was a leading authority on sheep genetics and worked at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) for 40 years.


Helen Alma Newton Turner was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on 15 May 1908. She received her BArch in 1930, graduating with honors from the University of Sydney. She worked briefly in an architect's office before taking a position as Ian Clunies Ross' secretary at the McMaster Animal Health Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (now the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in 1931.[1][2] She developed an interest in statistics and Ross arranged for her to train in the United Kingdom with statisticians Frank Yates and Ronald Fisher.[3] She returned to CSIRO in 1939 as a consulting statistician to the agency's Division of Animal Health and Production. Newton Turner formed the University Women's Land Army with marine biologist Isobel Bennett in 1940.[4] She was a statistician for the Department of Home Security in Canberra in 1942 and for the Department of Manpower in Sydney from 1943 to 1944. She worked as a statistician until about 1945 and in 1946 became a technical officer at the Division of Animal Health and Production.

In 1956, Newton Turner was made senior principal research scientist of CSIRO's Division of Animal Genetics and led sheep breeding research.[3] She received her DSc from the University of Sydney in 1970 and continued at the Division of Animal Genetics in 1976.[1] Newton Turner introduced objective, measurement-based approaches to sheep breeding and utilised quantitative genetics to improve wool quality and output from Merino sheep. From the late 1960s until the late 1980s, she travelled, assessing sheep development programs around the world.[5]

The Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics established the Helen Newton Turner Medal in 1993.[2][6] She died on 26 November 1995 in Sydney.[1][7]


FAO CERES2 Turner Silver Obverse
FAO CERES2 Turner Silver Reverse


  1. ^ a b c McCarthy, G. J. "Turner, Helen Alma Newton (1908 - 1995)". Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Helen Alma Newton Turner [1908-1995]". CSIROpedia. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Dr Helen Newton Turner AO OBE". AAABG Newsletter. December 1995.
  4. ^ Commire, Anne, ed. (2002). "Newton Turner, Helen (1908–1995)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications. ISBN 0-7876-4074-3. Archived from the original on 20 February 2016.
  5. ^ Allen, Nessy (November 1995). "Obituary: Helen Newton Turner" (PDF). The Australian.
  6. ^ Proceedings of the Sixteenth Conference: Application of New Genetic Technologies to Animal Breeding, Noosa Lakes, Queensland Australia, 25th-28th September 2005. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing. 2005. p. xix. ISBN 0-643-09234-X.
  7. ^ McCann, Doug (2020). "Turner, Helen Alma (1908–1995)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography , Australian National University. Retrieved 22 January 2023. This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Nessy (June 1992). "Helen Newton Turner and the wool industry". Journal of Australian Studies. 16 (33): 56–62. doi:10.1080/14443059209387099.