Alexander (Sandy) McLeod Mathieson [1920-2011]

By Helen WolffDecember 5th, 2011


Dr. Mathieson was born in Scotland on 17 July 1920. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1942, and while working for his PhD in Professor Moneath Robertson’s laboratory in Glasgow, carried through one of the first three-dimensional analyses of structure in an organic crystal.

Time at CSIRO

He joined the Chemical Physics Section of the CSIR Division of Industrial Chemistry in 1947 and started on a distinguished career in structural chemistry. His interests have been very wide, but his work on plant alkaloids is particularly well known to chemists. To physicists he is best known for his contributions to the techniques of single-crystal X-ray structure analysis, and for the design of diffraction instruments.

Dr Mathieson was a gifted teacher and  trained the leaders of nearly all of the structure analytical laboratories in Australia. He was a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and held several important offices in the International Union of Crystallography, including membership of the Executive. In 1978-80 he was Acting Chief of the Division of Chemical Physics in the 20-month interregnum between the retirement of Dr. Lloyd Rees and the appointment of the present Chief, Dr Lew Chadderton.

At his retirement function in the Division, Dr Mathieson was presented with a memento of his earliest days in CSIR – the rotating anode from a high-intensity X-ray generator which was constructed constructed for him in the Chemical Physics workshop not long after his arrival, and which remained in service for the next 25 years.

A special issue of The Australian Journal of Physics was presented to him, containing articles in crystallography which had been contributed by colleagues, both local and overseas.

Honours and awards

1967 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA)

Adapted from a submission to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter (no. 283, August 1985), p. 4

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