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Biographical entry May, Valerie (1916 - 2007)

brisbane, Queensland, Australia
27 June 2007
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Jones, Valerie (married name)


Valerie May was Honorary Curator of Cryptogams (later Honorary Phycologist) at the National Herbarium of New South Wales between 1960 and 1986. She was a pioneer in research on toxic algae, being the first to identify the phenomenon of toxic blue-green algae and its cause. Her first paper on the topic was published in 1966 but her findings were largely ignored until a major outbreak of the algae in the 1990s was responsible for a large number of livestock deaths. As Curator May negotiated transfer of A. H. S. Lucas algal collection (approximately 5000 specimens) from CSIRO to the National Herbarium of New South Wales. The red algal genus Valeriemaya was named in her honour.



Education - BSc (hons), University of Sydney
1938 - ?
Award - Research Scholar, Botany School. University of Sydney
1960 - 1986
Career position - Honorary Curator of Cryptogams (later Honorary Phycologist), National Herbarium of New South Wales
1987 - 2007
Career position - Honorary Research Associate, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

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Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Hooker, Claire, Irresistible Forces: Australian Women in Science, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2004, 215 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Carey, Jane, 'Valerie May (1916- )', Australasian Science, vol. 20, no. 9, 1999, p. 1999. Details
  • King, Robert J. and Briggs, Barbara G., 'Valerie May - fifty years of phycology', Telopea, vol. 3, no. 2, 1988, pp. 273-9. Details

Online Resources

Rebecca Rigby and Helen Cohn