Ian Stewart spent his entire career working with and alongside Standards Australia. His main contributions included a successful adoption of the metric system nationally and bringing about the harmonisation of Australian and international standards.
Ian Stewart was a true Standards Australia veteran. As a graduate of the University of Sydney where he studied chemistry, physics, mathematics, and geology, he went on to spend his professional career working for Standards Australia (known at the time as The Standards Association of Australia). Ian became the Chief Technical Officer in 1948, was appointed Deputy Director in 1953, and was Director (later Chief Executive) from 1974 until his retirement in 1979.
When Ian joined Standards Australia, it could be said the company was struggling to assert the importance of national standards development in industry through state acceptance of uniform national standards.
During his time working with the organisation, Ian was hugely impactful when it came to international alignment of Australia’s nationally developed standards. His work in the 1970s outlines three major areas of attention:
• ‘Metrication’ (the conversion from the Imperial to Metric system)
• The consumer movement
• The alignment of national standards with the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) equivalents
At the time the IEC was far more established than the ISO, which was seen as more of a European organisation. As such, Ian had to advocate passionately for alignment to be a national focus.
Leverage to achieve this included telling ISO and IEC that they and their products could never gain the international authority they sought until they became genuinely receptive to interests and opinions from outside Europe. At same time, he issued a wake-up call to Australian governments and industry that the hour had come to embrace both international standards and the crusade against technical barriers to trade.
Along with this, Ian was a champion for metrication and was a driving force behind the successful adoption of this measurement system - a system that also contributed to the harmonisation of Australian standards with international counterparts. By the time Ian retired, Standards Australia was deeply engaged in ISO and was a major promoter of international standardisation.
“Ian Stewart was an instrumental leader in the standards world. He significantly helped to develop Australia’s international voice and footprint in the industry, and we owe him a great debt to this day,” said Adrian O’Connell, Chief Executive Officer at Standards Australia.