Ana Timberlake, who died aged 66 of the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), was one of those rare women who proved that you can have it all. A successful businesswoman and loving mother of three, Ana was the founder of Timberlake Consultants Limited, a statistical consultancy firm, with particular applications in medical research and econometric modelling.
Ana was born in Portugal, the daughter of a civil engineer. Her father, Armando da Palma Carlos, was at that time the resident engineer on the Pego do Altar dam construction site, Alentejo, where Ana spent her early childhood. Her family were no strangers to successful women. Her aunt, Elina Guimares (whose husband, Adelino da Palma Carlos, was appointed prime minister following the 1974 revolution) was head of the National Council of Portuguese women and is considered to have been the first feminist in Portugal.
Ana took her first degree, in mathematics, at Lisbon University, before coming to Britain in 1969 to do a master's degree in statistics and operational research at Southampton University. She then took up employment at PTRC (Planning and Transport Research and Computation), a small research unit in London.
An early assignment at PTRC was to re-analyse the results of Robert Borkenstein's 1964 Grand Rapids study, upon which the British breathalyser test had been based in the mid-1960s. The original data had not been statistically adjusted and earlier analysis had suggested that driving improved with the intake of a small amount of alcohol. However, after Ana had standardised the data (for weather, vehicle age, driving experience, and so on), it became clear (much to the chagrin of the brewers) that alcohol intake did indeed make driving capability progressively worse.
At PTRC, Ana commenced a doctoral research degree at Queen Mary College (QMC), London, under David E. Barton, into the use of mathematics by scientists and engineers. This research caused some consternation among certain professions (such as actuaries) when the investigations showed that the level of mathematical sophistication generally employed by them at that time barely exceeded that gained in a standard O-level mathematics course.
After leaving QMC, Ana joined Control Data Corporation in London, where she formed lifelong associations with academics, researchers and developers of statistical techniques, econometric modelling and software. This led her to set up Timberlake in 1982. She somehow managed to juggle family life with building it into a global business.
As published in The Guardian Newspaper / Monday, 1st March 2010.