Obituary: Albert Daoud, UNSW Mathematics Lecturer

 

Uniken 15/7/1994

 

Albert Daoud, tutor and lecturer in the School of Mathematics for twenty years, died on 11 May 1994. He was probably the School's most popular teacher, and will be sorely missed by students as well as colleagues.

Born in Iraq in 1936, he was educated there and eventually came to head an Air Force training academy.

After graduating with a BSc from Reading University and working as an engineer for the Iraqi Petroleum Company, he came to Australia in 1966 and became chief chemist with Golden Fleece in Sydney. He gained a PhD in Chemical Engineering at UNSW in 1976, having already joined the School of Mathematics as a tutor in 1973.

Albert is remembered for a large number of anecdotes that expressed his unique view of life. Many dated from his time in the Iraqi air force, an institution the survivors of which shared a wide range of survival skills.

The following story dates from the later period of his service with the oil company in Iraq, but is equally characteristic. His group had the task of forwarding to London monthly reports of the level of oil in various wells spread over the oilfield. Operations at certain sites became hazardous due to the activities of Kurdish snipers, and the measurers refused to go out to the wells. Unfortunately, it was not possible to explain this to London, as government policy was there there were no rebels, and anyone contradicting it faced the risk of being shot for treason. Nor was it possible to simply send made-up figures, as London could pick unreasonable results.

As at some point in every Albert story, alarmed people were calmed by his assurance that the problem could be safely left to him. He devised a scheme of difference equations that would predict the missing results from the previous ones and from wells that could still be measured, and sent the answers off. Needless to say, when that phase of the Kurdish problem resolved itself several months later, the new measurements were found to match his predictions, and London sent a special commendation on the quality of the results.

The story expresses the calm helpfulness and humour that made Albert sought after by a generation of students worried about passing. Less able students especially knew Albert would understand their difficulties, and many such students owe their passes to him. Many changed to his classes as well as seeking him out for personal advice.

As tutorial staff mentor, at first informally and later formally, he again used his personal skills to smooth the way for those anxious about fitting into the large UNSW pond.

He was the co-author of Introduction to Proofs in Mathematics (Prentice Hall, 1988) and of several papers on limit cycles.

He fought long and hard to have teaching recognised as a valuable and rewarded activity at UNSW. His success was not negligible, but fell short of what he hoped.

In the Assyrian community in the Fairfield area, he put in many extra hours of tutoring, and helped many with immigration matters.

Albert was still teaching at the beginning of 1994, in the summer session, but thereafter his cancer progressed rapidly. He is survived by his wife and three children, two of whom are UNSW students. This loss of his unique personality is a severe one.

James Franklin