A Tribute to Ana Timberlake

By Ana’s daughters, Rita Al Merei and Teresa Timberlake

Our mother, Ana Timberlake, who died aged 66 of the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, 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 (TCL), 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 Guimarães (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, 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 inLondon, where she formed lifelong associations with academics, researchers and developers of statistical techniques, econometric modelling and software. This led her to set up TCL in 1982. She somehow managed to juggle family life with building it into a global business.

Ana is survived by her three children, Rita, Teresa and Zé, five grandchildren, and her former husband Richard.

One thought on "A Tribute to Ana Timberlake"

  1. What an inspiring woman and almost impossible to believe that we once thought alcohol might improve driving ability due to a statistical error until she put us right on that. How does anyone juggle family life and start a global business. Ana Timberlake, you are a true role model.

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