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Biographical entry Essex-Cohen, Elizabeth Annette (1940 - 2004)

21 April 1940
Grafton, New South Wales, Australia
21 March 2004


Elizabeth Annette Essex-Cohen was one of the first women in Australia to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in physics. She gained international recognition as a first class ionosphere physicist with her pioneering work on the global positioning satellite (GPS) system. Essex-Cohen initiated new research techniques for the study of the ionosphere and was heavily involved in the creation of FedSat - Australia's first launched satellite in 30 years. Essex-Cohen was also a competent lecturer, and long-term academic at La Trobe University, Bundoora. A brass plaque which commemorates her outstanding achievements was unveiled at her former school, Grafton High School, on the 23 July 2005.


After completing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in ionospheric physics at the University of New England (New South Wales) in 1966, Elizabeth Annette Essex-Cohen took up a lectureship at The University of West Indies, Jamaica. This was followed by a lectureship at James Cook University (Townsville, 1968) and then at La Trobe University, where she spent the remainder of her career. During her PhD Essex-Cohen discovered that by using different radio frequencies she could simultaneously probe different height levels of the ionosphere. These results showed that the ionosphere was much more complex than previously thought and provided essential background information for the creation of the Navstar GPS (a satellite navigation system). While at La Trobe, Essex-Cohen helped forge research links with the Australian Antarctic Division and initiated the University's partnership with the Co-operative Research Centre for Satellite Systems. The later partnership resulted in the building of and 2002 launch of FedSat - an Australian satellite. Essex-Cohen was project leader for the satellite's space-based GPS observations and experiments. After the FedSat project, she continued her GPS research working at the (US) Air Force Geophysics Laboratory in 1974 and again from 1978-1979. This was the start of many collaborations with NASA and other US agencies.


Education - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) completed at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales
1966 - 1968
Career position - Lecturer at the University of West Indies in Jamaica
Career position - Researcher at the (US) Air Force Geophysics Laboratory in Massachusetts, USA
1978 - 1979
Career position - Researcher at the (US) Air Force Geophysics Laboratory

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


Annette Alafaci