On the interior he was gentle and caring. He married his life partner Joan and in the early 1960s liked nothing better than spending summer Sundays in the surf at Harbord Beach, just north of Manly, with his young family.
Prior to this, in the late 1940s, the best available Ophthalmological advice was that Michael avoid books and study which might further damage his eyesight. He attended Agricultural College at Longeronong, near Horsham but farm life was not his calling. Michael instead went to study at Ohio State University in the USA. By 1958 he had a PhD in Animal Genetics and was being embraced by the research community in the USA, having developed into a dedicated and prolific researcher. Returning to Australia with his wife and son, Michael then worked at CSIRO in Sydney. He was extremely blessed to add to his family with three daughters. By 1964 he had been awarded a second PhD in Mathematics and Statistics.
Michael and his young family then returned to the United States, to Baltimore and the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University. Academically this was the happiest and most productive time of his life. He returned to Sydney and the CSIRO in the late 1960s before moving to the Department of Statistics at the University of Adelaide in 1970.
In 1976, at age 45 years, Michael was awarded a Doctorate of Science from the University of NSW. He had submitted 49 published papers, on 24 of which he was sole author. The papers related to statistical problems in the sheep and wool industry and statistical problems in cancer research. His commendation stated that almost every result was practically motivated through close co-operation with biologists and the whole work is characterised by strong interplay between motivated theoretical research and application. The examiners commended the candidate for his imaginative and creative ability in identifying problems amenable to research.
Ultimately Michael’s deteriorating eyesight, a combination of extreme short-sightedness, retinal detachment and macular degeneration, all common causes of impaired vision in Australia, terminated prematurely his great passions for driving, reading and finally research.
Mindful of the impact of impaired vision on his own life, Michael left Flinders University a gift of $100 000 to support the Michael Tallis Fund for Eye and Vision Research. The Fund will provide support for research activities in ophthalmology at the Flinders Centre for Ophthalmology, Eye and Vision Research (FCOEVR), including financial contributions to research scholarships and/or fellowships for Flinders students and Flinders academics. The Flinders Centre for Ophthalmology, Eye and Vision Research aims to improve outcomes for patients with blinding eye conditions affecting our community. Flinders is honoured to continue Michael’s legacy of world-class research and grateful for his generous support which will extend the resources of our researchers.
‘He was the epitome of the quiet achiever, and espoused humility his whole life.’
– Dr George Tallis
We would like to thank Michael Tallis’ family for their commitment to seeing his wish honoured. Thank you also to Michael’s son Dr George Andrew Tallis for sharing his eulogy with us, and upon which much of this article is based.