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Biographical entry Matthaei, Ernst Artur Franz Joseph (1904 - 1966)

21 April 1904
Trier, Germany
15 July 1966
Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Microscopist and Optical technician


Ernst Matthaei was an optics expert who learnt his trade in Germany under the guidance of masters of the field at the University of Jena and at the Institute of Microscopy. By 1926 he was a trainee in the Carl Zeiss works and the following year was transferred to the 'Opto' department which made spectacles and ophthalmological instruments. In 1920 Matthaei worked for E. C. Heyne & Co., which held the Zeiss agency in Melbourne. Upon his arrival in Australia he set up his own scientific instrument import company called Ernst Matthaei & Co. The business folded after the start of World War I so Matthaei joined the physiology department at the University of Melbourne. In 1941 he transferred to the botany department and was put in charge of the production of graticules for sighting telescopes and binoculars. After the war Matthaei's workshop developed into a thriving university supply chain which excelled in photo-micrography and fluorescence microscopy. By 1950 he was a part-time lecture at the University providing a technical course on the optical microscope for research workers.

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Ernst Matthaei - Records, 1924 - 1965; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Book Sections

  • Bolton, H.C., 'Matthaei, Ernst Artur Franz Joseph (1904-1966), Optical Microscopist', in John Ritchie (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 15, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2000, pp. 330-331. Also available at Details

Journal Articles

  • Flesch, Juliet and McPhee, Peter, '150 Years, 150 Stories: Ernst Artur Franz Joseph Matthaei', Uni News, vol. 12, no. 9, 2003, p. 4. Details
  • Leeper, G. W., 'Obituary: Ernst Matthaei', Australian Journal of Science, vol. 29, no. 6, 1967, p. 166. Details
  • O'Reilly, W. J., 'Obituary: Sydney Edward Wright', Australian Journal of Science, vol. 29, no. 6, 1966, p. 165. Details

Online Resources

See also

  • Bolton, H. C., 'Optical Instruments in Australia in the 1939-45 War: successes and lost opportunities', Australian Physicist, 1990. Also available at Details
  • Flesch, Juliet and McPhee, Peter, 150 years, 150 stories: brief biographies of one hundred and fifty remarkable people associated with the University of Melbourne, Department of History, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 2003, 168 pp. Details

McCarthy, G.J & Annette Alafaci