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Biographical entry Ducker, Sophie Charlotte (1909 - 2004)


9 April 1909
Dresden, Germany
20 May 2004
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Klemperer Edle von Klemenau, Sophie Charlotte (maiden name)


Sophie Ducker was a renowned botanist and Australian botanical historian. Born in Germany, Ducker fled many war zones to eventually settle in Australia around 1941. She joined the University of Melbourne's Botany Department as a Technical Assistant in 1944, retiring as a senior lecturer in Botany in 1974. She was particularly interested in phycology - the study of seaweed, and studying the many 18th and 19th century explorers, botanists and artists who first described Australia. Ducker has an annual postgraduate scholarship endowed in her name.


Ducker began her botanical studies at the Universities of Geneva and Stuttgart, but stopped in 1931 when she married Dr Johann Friedrich Ducker, executive officer of Germany's Chamber of Commerce. Soon afterwards she had her only child, a son. Due to the out-beak of war, Ducker and her family were forced to leave Germany and in 1938 they settled in Tehran, Persia (now Iran). She became trapped in Rhodesia for a year in 1939 as a result of World War II and with much grit and determination, eventually made her way back to Tehran to meet up with her family. Then in 1941, war once again forced the Duckers to flee their home and they ended up in Australia.

Now aged 35, Ducker was still determined to work in the field of botany. In 1944 she worked as a research assistant for Dr Ethel McLennan at The University of Melbourne's botany school, studying the relatively new field of the anti-biotic properties of fungi and soil microorganisms. Ducker also completed (part-time) her BSc and Masters degrees during this time. She went on to specialize in marine botany, especially algae, and initiated the 1969 and 1973 studies of Port Phillip Bay. Ducker also became a competent lecturer, supervisor and historian. After her 'official' retirement in 1974, Sophie Ducker continued her research which expanded to include the study of flowering marine plants, and researching the histories of the earliest recorders of Australia's flora, especially the seaweeds. Sophie Ducker donated around 1200 books on botany, including one written by St Augustine in 1466, to the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library.


Education - Completed junior schooling at Cheltenham Ladies College. Location: England
1931 -
Life event - Married Dr Johann Friedrich Ducker. Location: Hamburg
Life event - Moved to Persia (Iran) with her husband and son. Location: Tehran
1945 - 1957
Career position - Research Assistant at the University of Melbourne
Education - Bachelor of Science (BSc) completed at the University of Melbourne
1957 - 1961
Career position - Lecturer in Botany at the University of Melbourne
1961 - 1972
Career position - Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne
Career position - Reader at the University of Melbourne
1974 -
Career position - Senior Research Associate at the University of Melbourne
Education - Doctor of Science (DSc) received from the University of Melbourne
1986 - 2004
Career position - Member of the Melbourne University Committee of Convocation
Career position - The Contented Botanist was published
Education - Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) received from the University of Melbourne
Award - Mueller Medal received (Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science)

Related Awards

Related Corporate Bodies

  • The University of Melbourne (1853 - )

    Sophie Ducker had a extensive career at The University of Melbourne in the field of Botany beginning as a Research Assistant in 1945 and retiring as a Senior Research Associate in 1974.

    Date: 1945 - 1974

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Sophie Charlotte Ducker - Records, 1960 - 1988; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Book Sections

  • Ducker, Sophic C., 'Lucas, Arthur Henry Shakespeare (1853-1936), School Master and Biologist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle, eds, vol. 10 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1986), pp. 163-164. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'Harvey, William Henry (1811-1866), botanist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Douglas Pike, ed., vol. 4 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972), pp. 357-358. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'Australian phycology: the German influence' in People and plants in Australia, Carr, D. J. and Carr, S. G. M., eds (Sydney: Academic Press, 1981), pp. 116-38. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'History of Australian phycology: early German collectors and botanists' in History in the service of systematics: papers from the conference to celebrate the centenary of the British Museum (Natural History) 13-16 April 1981, Wheeler, Alwynne and Price, James H, eds (London: Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, 1981), pp. 43-51. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'Ethel McLennan (1891-1983) botanist' in 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Heather Radi, ed. (Sydney: Women's Redress Press Inc, 1988). Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C. and Jenkin, John, 'Wood, Edward James Ferguson (1904-1972), Marine Microbiologist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, John Ritchie and Diane Langmore, eds, vol. 16 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2002), p. 577. Details

Conference Papers

  • Allen, Nessy, 'Cross-National Careers: the Interchange of Women Scientists to and From Australia', in Australia in the world: perceptions and possibilities: papers from the Outside Images of Australia Conference, Perth, 1992 edited by Don Grant and Graham Seal (Perth: Black Swan Press, 1992).. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'Early Austrian Influence on Australian Botany', in History of Systematic Botany in Australasia: Proceedings of a Symposium Held at the University of Melbourne, 25-27 May 1988 edited by Short, P.S. (Melbourne: Australian Systematic Botany Society, 1990), pp. 297-304.. Details

Edited Books

  • Clifford, Harold T. ed., Cambridge - Castlemaine: a Tribute to John Stewart Turner on the Occasion of his 80th Birthday (St Lucia: Botany Department, University of Queensland, 1988), 71 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Ashton, D. H.; Ducker, S. C., 'John Stewart Turner 1908-1991', Historical Records of Australian Science, 9 (3) (1993), 278-290. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'History of Australian Phycology: the significance of early French exploration', Brunonia, 2 (1) (1980), 19-42. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'Port Phillip Heads: a phycological saga', Phycologia, 22 (1983), 431-443. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'An Austrian Gentleman Gardener in the Swan River Colony', Australian Garden Journal, 3 (1984), 94-96. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'James Fleming: the First Gardener on the River Yarra, Victoria', Archives of Natural History, 13 (1986), 123-140. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'W. H. Harvey in New South Wales: Letters by the Phycologist W. H. Harvey, Written in New South Wales in 1855', Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, 115 (1995), 213-223. Details
  • Ducker, Sophie C., 'An early overland expedition to Wilsons Promontory', Victorian Naturalist, 115 (1998), 292-5. Details
  • Maroske, Sara, 'Sophie Ducker's Contribution to the History of Botany', Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 120 (2004), 20-25. Details
  • May, Tom W., 'Sophie Charlotte Ducker: a Mycological Appreciation', Australasian Mycologist, 23 (2004), 108-9. Details




  • Ducker, Sophie, 'Studies in Marine Botany: Collected Papers', DSc thesis, University of Melbourne, 1978. Details

McCarthy, G.J.