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Lodewyckx, Augustin (1876–1964)

by John Stanley Martin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Augustin Lodewyckx (1876-1964), scholar, was born on 8 December 1876 at Booischot, Belgium, son of Joannes Lodewijckx, farmer, and his wife Maria Dymphna, née Maes. After completing his secondary education at Antwerp he studied Germanic languages, French and philology in 1897-1902 at the University of Ghent where he became deeply involved in the Flemish movement; in 1902 his doctoral thesis on the Austrian playwright Grillparzer was awarded the coveted gold medal by King Leopold II. Lodewyckx then pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Leyden, including work on the great Dutch dictionary, Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal.

In 1905-10 Lodewyckx was professor of French and German at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, South Africa. On 24 January 1910 at Simonstown he married Anna Sophia Hansen. Next year he was appointed to the Belgian colonial service in the Congolese province of Katanga, where he organized the settlement of Belgian colonists and established a system of education for children of European settlers. Concern about the adverse effect of the climate on his family prompted him to seek employment in the United States of America, sailing via Australia, in 1914. Stranded in Melbourne on the outbreak of World War I, he was advised by the Belgian consul to remain. His knowledge of European languages was utilized by the wartime censorship office and, after a year as modern language master at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School in 1915, he was appointed lecturer in German at the University of Melbourne when his predecessor, a German national, was dismissed because of wartime prejudice.

Building up his department with diligence and zeal, Lodewyckx was appointed associate professor in 1922. He soon gathered an enthusiastic German reading circle (der Deutsche Leseverein), a group which fulfilled a need among the German-speaking community and Australians who had learned German. But his aim was to expand his department to cover the whole Germanic field. In 1918 he was appointed instructor in Dutch in the university's continuing education programme. Eventually, urged by his own students of German and by newly arrived refugees from the Netherlands East Indies, he introduced Dutch as a university subject in 1942, writing and producing his own material because textbooks were not available. In 1944 he published a Dutch grammar and in 1946 a literary history for his students.

Iceland's language and civilization became one of Lodewyckx's interests. Having mastered modern and ancient Icelandic, he visited the country in 1931 and again in 1937-38. In 1944 he introduced Old Icelandic as a university subject and continued to teach it at home after his retirement in 1947. In 1958 with his wife he founded the Anna Lodewyckx scholarship to enable Australian students to study in Iceland. He also donated the initial finance in 1960 for the teaching of Swedish at the university.

The time Lodewyckx spent at the University of Melbourne marked a turning point in the approach to modern languages, which hitherto had been taught as dead classical languages. As teacher and scholar he represented the European tradition of strict intellectual exactitude and with his distinguished colleague A. R. Chisholm he raised the intellectual and cultural standards of his discipline. Chisholm wrote that Lodewyckx was 'a born explorer, who wandered far afield in both the literal and metaphorical sense'; in so doing he inspired generations of students.

Lodewyckx's interests were broad and deep. They focused on philology and the history of Germanic languages within the Indo-European group and on demography and patterns of culture. His first book (1911) was a detailed study of geographical conditions in central and southern Africa. His book on Germans in Australia (1932) was the first standard work in the field and set the pattern for later research. Shortly before his eightieth birthday he published People for Australia: A Study in Population Problems (1956), a book highly commended by A. A. Calwell, architect of Australia's post-war immigration programme. Altogether he published fourteen books and innumerable articles in five languages. He was decorated by the governments of Iceland (1937), The Netherlands (1952), Sweden (1963) and Belgium (1964) and in 1955 received a gold medal from the Goethe Institute in Germany.

Lodewyckx died at his Mont Albert home on 4 September 1964. He was survived by his wife, son Karel Axel, librarian of the University of Melbourne, and daughter Hilma Dymphna, translator, editor and wife of Manning Clark, historian.

Select Bibliography

  • A. R. Chisholm, Men Were My Milestones (Melb, 1958)
  • A. R. Chisholm, The Familiar Presence, and Other Reminiscences (Melb, 1966)
  • K. A. Lodewycks, The Funding of Wisdom (Melb, 1982)
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, Dec 1951, p 96, Nov 1964, p 5
  • AUMLA, 5 (1956), p 4
  • Skirnir, 141 (1967), p 60
  • Vlaanderen in de wereld, 2 (1974), p 425
  • Viw-Nieuws, 25 (May-July 1977), p 4.

Citation details

John Stanley Martin, 'Lodewyckx, Augustin (1876–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lodewyckx-augustin-7220/text12497, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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