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Ludwig Glauert (1879–1963)

by C. F. H. Jenkins

This article was published:

Ludwig Glauert (1879-1963), museum curator, was born on 5 May 1879 at Ecclesall Bierlow, Yorkshire, England, son of Johann Ernst Louis Henry Glauert, merchant and cutlery manufacturer, and his wife Amanda, née Watkinson. He was educated in Sheffield at the grammar school, Firth (University) College and the Technical School; he trained as a geologist. In 1900 he became a fellow of the Geological Society of London. He worked as a demonstrator for four years at the college and then for his father. In 1908 he migrated to Western Australia with his wife Winifrede Aimée, née Berresford.

In July Glauert joined the Geological Survey in Perth as a palaeontologist, and helped to arrange the collections of the Western Australian Museum: for two years he identified, classified and described material collected by his superiors in the field. In 1910 he joined the permanent staff as the director's scientific assistant and was promoted in 1914 to keeper of geology and ethnology. In 1909-15 he carried out field-work on the Pleistocene limestone of the Margaret River Caves, investigating the discovery there of the remains of several species of the extinct marsupial and monotreme fauna and the remains of Victorian and Tasmanian mammals, whose presence in Western Australia had never been suspected. Sir Winthrop Hackett commented 'they had got a little gold mine out of the block of limestone on which Mr Glauert's hands had wrought such marvellous results'. He was also interested in the Aboriginals, was a conservationist, and as 'Jay Penne' contributed to the West Australian.

On 3 October 1917 Glauert enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served briefly overseas. After the war he lectured to servicemen on scientific subjects and studied Australian natural history material in the British Museum. On returning to Perth in 1920, he became keeper of the biological collections at the Western Australian Museum; during this period he described a new phreatoicid isopod which stimulated interest in the group. In 1927 he was appointed curator (director from 1954) of the museum.

Glauert completed an arts degree at the university in 1928. He was an indefatigable collector in his spare time and produced many papers on fields as diverse as stratigraphical geology, palaeontology, zoogeography, entomology, carcinology, mammalogy, herpetology, ornithology, arachnology and ethnology. However, field-work and the acquisition of specimens for the museum by direct collecting in the years between the wars was virtually suspended because of pitifully inadequate funding and staff: for years Glauert was the only scientist, with a taxidermist and one technical assistant. He used his private means to purchase books for the museum.

He made a zoological survey at Rottnest Island, however, and in 1930, with C. F. H. Jenkins, described for the first time the breeding habits of the banded stilt; he did valuable work on Australian scorpions and became an acknowledged authority on Western Australian reptiles. In 1938, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, he toured overseas museums. This resulted in his modernizing the display areas of the Perth museum, but World War II checked these developments. In 1945 Glauert received the Royal Society of Western Australia's medal; he was president of the society in 1933 and 1947.

Glauert's principles of museum management were to instruct and inspire the amateur; to build up a store of research material for the professional biologist; and to educate and hold the interest of the general public. His enthusiastic approach, especially with young people, made him a catalyst; he was sanguine, bold and optimistic. The museum became a meeting-place for the Royal Society, the Western Australian Naturalists' Club and the Western Australian Gould League, in all of which he was active. His articles, lectures and broadcasts ensured that the institution received a constant flow of specimens. In 1948 he was awarded the Australian Natural History medallion and he was appointed M.B.E. after retiring in 1956.

Glauert published handbooks on the snakes and lizards of Western Australia in 1950 and 1961. In retirement he continued work on reptiles and scorpions. Survived by three daughters and a son, he died in Perth on 1 February 1963 and his ashes were scattered at sea off his home beach at Cottesloe. Glauert's oil portrait by Ernest Buckmaster hangs in his old museum.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (Legislative Assembly, Western Australia), 1909, 1 (6)
  • Royal Society of Western Australia, Journal, 31 (1944-45), p vi, 62, (1979), p 33
  • Western Australian Naturalist, 5 (1957), p 148, 8 (1963), p 189
  • Emu (Melbourne), 63 (1963), p 74
  • Daily News (Perth), 10 Dec 1928
  • Countryman (Perth), 20 Feb 1963.

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Citation details

C. F. H. Jenkins, 'Glauert, Ludwig (1879–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Penne, Jay

5 May, 1879
Ecclesall Bierlow, Yorkshire, England


1 February, 1963 (aged 83)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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