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Arthur Herbert Evelyn Mattingley (1870–1950)

by Tess Kloot

This article was published:

Arthur Herbert Evelyn Mattingley (1870-1950), photographer and ornithologist, was born on 11 July 1870 at North Melbourne, fourth child of English parents Albert Mattingley, headmaster, and his wife Mary Jane, née Hayman. His younger brother Harold Vernon (d.1961) became a leading Melbourne dentist. Educated at his father's school in North Melbourne and at Scotch College, Mattingley worked briefly as a tea-taster for Herbert Henty in 1891 before joining the Customs Department. His interests in photography, ornithology and conservation began early and were maintained enthusiastically all his life.

A pioneer of Australian bird photography, Mattingley published his first photograph in 1903 and in 1909 won a gold medal at the International Photographic Exhibition at Dresden, Germany. Many of his photographs appeared in books by Robert Hall and Charles Barrett, and in the Emu and the Victorian School Paper. He made his greatest impact as a photographer and conservationist with an illustrated article in the Emu (October 1907), 'Plundered for their plumes', exposing the cruelty of slaughtering egrets for the millinery trade. Sets of his photographs were exhibited in London shop windows, shown as lantern-slides and published in Bird Notes and News by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds of which Mattingley was made an honorary life member in 1909.

A member of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union from its inception, Mattingley held the offices of treasurer (1903-04), honorary secretary (1904-08), vice-president (1911-13) and president (1913-14). The camp-outs he organized included the first to Shearwater rookeries on Phillip Island in 1902; he suggested banding the birds there as early as 1912. In 1908 he led an expedition to the Bass Strait Islands and persuaded O. G. Perry to film seals and birds—'unlike anything yet seen in Melbourne'. He was elected a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London in 1907 and a corresponding fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1921.

Mattingley helped to form the Bird Observers' Club, Melbourne, in 1905; he was president in 1928 and was made a life member in 1935. He was a founder of the Gould League of Bird Lovers of Victoria (president, 1933) and of the Victorian Advisory Council of Flora and Fauna. In 1947 he was made an honorary member of the Victorian Field Naturalists Club. He was a founder of the Wyperfeld National Park; Mount Mattingley, its highest point, is named after him. He was also a member of the committee of management of Wilson's Promontory National Park.

As well as publishing ornithological articles, Mattingley wrote on imaginative uses of water resources and on the education of children in conservation methods. He was on the council of Melbourne Boys' High School. After retiring from the Customs Department as officer-in-charge of overseas parcels post, in 1934 he led a two-month expedition through central and north-eastern Australia, covering nearly 7000 miles (11,265 km). Photographs and articles testify to his great interest in the Aborigines for whom he advocated a system of segregation. His negatives and lantern-slides, donated to the Education Department of Victoria, are now held by the La Trobe Library, Melbourne.

A somewhat stern man, Mattingley was slight, 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, with dark hair and brown eyes. He died on 2 October 1950 at Prahran and was cremated. He was survived by his wife Zenobia Anne, née Fenton, whom he had married at St Mary's Church of England, North Melbourne, on 22 March 1910, and by three sons.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Whittell, The Literature of Australian Birds (Perth, 1954)
  • P. Slater, Masterpieces of Australian Bird Photography (Adel, 1980)
  • Emu, 7 (1907), pt 2, p 71, 9 (1909), pt 2, p 108, pt 3, p 179, 14 (1914), pt 3, p 121, 51 (1951), pt 1, p 85
  • ANA Advocate, May 1942
  • Bird Observers' Club, Monthly Notes, Sept 1945, Dec 1947, Dec 1950
  • Herald (Melbourne), 1 Sept 1934
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 29 Sept 1934
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 23 Oct 1934
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Oct 1934
  • Age (Melbourne), 20 Oct 1961
  • Mattingley family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Tess Kloot, 'Mattingley, Arthur Herbert Evelyn (1870–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 July, 1870
North Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


2 October, 1950 (aged 80)
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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