Foundation Vice-Chancellor

Sir James Adam Louis MATHESON (1912-2002)

Foundation Vice-Chancellor (1961-1976)

Dr Matheson graduated with a Bachelor of Science in engineering (1932) and a Master of Science (1933) from the University of Manchester, and a PhD from the University of Birmingham (1946).

Early career

Dr Matheson was a technical assistant and designer at Whitecross Company Ltd, 1933-34; designer with British Reinforced Concrete Engineering Company Ltd, 1934-35; engineer with Cameron and Pooley Ltd, 1936; assistant lecturer in engineering at Manchester University, 1936-38; lecturer in civil engineering at Birmingham University, 1938-46; Professor of Civil Engineering, 1946-50 and Dean of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, 1946-50; Beyer Professor of Engineering at the University of Manchester, 1950-1959.

During World War II, Dr Matheson served in the Home Guard as second-in-command of an anti-aircraft battery.

Monash career

Dr Matheson was appointed founding Vice-Chancellor of Monash University in 1959. He retired in 1976.

Minute of Appreciation from Council Meeting 1/76 (pdf 626kb)

Minute of Appreciation from Professorial Board Meeting 1/76 (pdf 411kb)

External appointments

  • Member of the Ramsay Committee on the Development of Tertiary Education in Victoria (1961-1963);
  • Member of the Royal Commission into the failure of the King Street Bridge (1962-1963);
  • Member of the Advisory Council of CSIRO (1962-1967);
  • Trustee of the Science Museum of Victoria (1964-1983);
  • Member of the Interim Council of the University of Papua New Guinea (1965-1968);
  • Member of the Council of the Institution of Engineers, Australia (1965-1981) (President, 1975);
  • Chairman of the Council of Papua New Guinea University of Technology (1966-1972);
  • Chairman of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (1967-1968);
  • Chairman of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (1967-1968);
  • President of the Council of the Science Museum of Victoria (1969-1973),
  • Chancellor of Papua New Guinea University of Technology (1973-1975);
  • Member of the Post-Secondary Education Committee Victoria (1975);
  • Member of  the Australian Science and Technology Council (1975-1978);
  • Member of the Newport Review Panel (1977);
  • Director of the Nauru Phosphate Corporation (1977-1979);
  • Chairman of the Planning and Finance Committee of the Schools Commission of Victoria (1978-1983).


  • Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) (1944);
  • Kernot Medal from the University of Melbourne (1970);
  • Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) (1972);
  • Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Hong Kong (1972);
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws from Manchester University (1972), University of Melbourne (1975) and Monash University (1975);
  • Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal from the Institution of Engineers (1976);
  • Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) (1976).
  • Honorary Fellow of Institution of Civil Engineers (London)
  • Honorary Fellow of Institution of Engineers, Australia
  • Fellow of Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering

The Matheson Pipe Organ in the Robert Blackwood Hall and the Sir Louis Matheson Library are named in honour of Dr Matheson.

Sources of information

Who's Who in Australia 2002; personnel files.

Dr. Matheson, 1963.
Photographer: Terry Martin

Dr. Matheson (right) dressed for performance of 'The Stone Wall,' 1974, with Professor Ken Hunt (left) & Dr Ian Hiscock

Dr. Matheson in the Vice-Chancellor's XI, 1961
Photographer: Ben Baxter

Louis Matheson Pipe Organ, 1980
Photographer: Richard Crompton