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Tiegs, Oscar Werner (1897 - 1956)

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Born: 12 March 1897  Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  Died: 5 November 1956.

In 1925 Tiegs was appointed to the staff of the Zoology Department at Melbourne University. He won the David Syme Research Prize in 1928. In 1931 he was appointed Associate Professor 'in recognition of the value of his researches', and in 1948 Professor of Zoology. Tiegs served as Dean of Science from 1950 to 1952, but he much preferred the laboratory, the departmental museum, which he extended and improved, and the lecture theatre to the committee room.

Career Highlights

Fascinated by insects since childhood, Tiegs was an outstanding morphologist who devoted a lifetime to meticulous microscopic observation of invertebrates, principally insects and myriapods. Ranging from physiological analysis of nervous and muscular action to studies in classical invertebrate embryology comparable to the very best work of the last century, his beautifully illustrated findings made necessary the division the phylum Arthropoda into two distinct parts; one comprising the insects, myriapods, and Peripatus, the other Trilobites, the Crustacea and arachnids. He had just completed a comprehensive review of arthropod evolution for publication shortly before his death. The second of his search for the fundamental knowledge on which others might build involved microscopic study of the structure of muscle fibre and the nature of the nerve connections within it. Tiegs mastery of technique, his shrewd perception of relationships in multitudinous detail. Significant as his contribution was to zoology, isolation and an unassuming disposition had almost certainly limited his capacity to reach his maximum potential.

Slight of stature, with a laugh which always seemed more appropriate to a more robust physique, Sandy Tiegs was a modest, warm and unassuming man whose friendships were deep and lasting. He was a shrewd judge of human character and refreshingly direct in his dealings. His lectures, especially to first year students, were models of presentation and clarity drawing on an easy command of English and natural artistic ability. To his staff he offered the freedom and encouragement that nurtured world class research. A man for whom the line between work and recreation was blurred, Tiegs protected his staff where possible by taking extra duties himself.

12 March 1897

Oscar Werner Tiegs was born in Brisbane, Queensland, only son of German-born Otto Tiegs, pharmacist and engineer, and his wife, Ottilie.

1919 - 1921

From Brisbane Grammar School, a scholarship took him to the recently established University of Queensland to study biology (BSc 1919; MSc 1921)


As the Walter & Eliza Hall Fellow in Economic Biology he worked on blowfly and prickly pear problems in Queensland and the campaign to eradicate hookworm


Tiegs accompanied Professor T. Harvey Johnston to the University of Adelaide to assist in the establishment of the new department of Zoology. He becomes Acting Head of Department,

1923? - 1924?

While acting head of the department at the University of Adelaide, Tiegs completes his research on the histology of metamorphosis of the Chalcid wasp, Nasonia for which he was awarded a DSc at the age of 25


Appointed to the staff of the Zoology Department at Melbourne University under Professor W. E. Agar.


Married Ethyl Mary Hamilton who shared his interest in art, literature and music.


Awarded the David Syme Research Prize and as a Rockefeller Travelling Fellow he spent the year working in the universities at Cambridge and Utrecht.


Appointed Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne in recognition of the value of his researches


Tiegs mastery of technique, his shrewd perception of relationships in multitudinous detail, and the importance of the conclusions drawn from his work were recognised by his election as Fellow of the Royal Society


Appointed Professor of Zoology at the University of Melbourne.

1950 - 1952

Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne


A foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science Tiegs finally travelled overseas for a second time to meet with peers, few of whom had both the skill and the time to address the difficult fundamental problems that so absorbed Tiegs.


Awarded the Clarke Medal of the Royal Society of NSW

5 November 1956

Tiegs dies suddenly at his home survived by his wife. He is cremated.

Related Entries for Tiegs, Oscar Werner


Professorial Chair

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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Carolyn Rasmussen & Rachel Tropea
Created: 29 August 2001
Modified: 21 November 2001

Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre on AustehcWeb, October 2001
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: http://www.esrc.unimelb.edu.au/about/inquiries.html#comment
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 16 November 2009

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