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Weidmann, Maurice (1936–2001)

by Geoffrey Smith and Peter Stewart

Maurice Weidemann was born in Ararat, in Western Victoria, on 1 November 1936, to farming parents from Elmhurst, nearby.

He studied agricultural science at the University of Melbourne in the late 1950s, and took a PhD in Biochemistry there soon after. Following postdoctoral studies in Oxford and Munich, mentored by the eminent biochemists Sir Hans Krebs and Professor Martin Klingenberg, he returned to Australia to his first academic post, at ANU, recruited by Professor Michael Birt, the Foundation Professor in Biochemistry.

Maurie's scientific interests were largely in metabolic regulation in the white blood cells of the immune system — in factors that regulated their division and proliferation, and the role of oxygen free radicals in their action.

In his later work, these studies were extended into the immunological status of the human body in response to intensive training, as in elite athletes. In these studies he collaborated with exercise physiologists at the Australian Institute of Sport, where his work helped to explain the sensitivity of athletes to infections such as colds and influenza.

Maurie was motivated by a desire to understand the role of exercise in human wellbeing, and kept himself fit and healthy. He published widely and his work was internationally recognised; his students over the years commented on his inspirational qualities as a teacher. Maurie also taught extracurricular courses in Sufism through ANU's Centre for Continuing Education.

He took early retirement from ANU in 1993, after serving as Senior Lecturer and Reader in Biochemistry for 23 years, including a period of seven years as Head of the Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Faculty of Science.

Since leaving ANU he was mostly engaged with his passion of photography, with extensive walking tours in France, Spain, USA, Sikkim and Bhutan providing striking images for his camera. From 1993 to 1996, with Peter Stewart, he helped ANU inaugurate a series of Summer Schools for Science Teachers drawn nationally.

The Summer School was reinstituted this year, scheduled for January 2002, and Maurie would have again been a key organisational figure. But early this year he fell from a ladder, suffering severe head injury. Late in August he disappeared in the Shoalhaven area north of Braidwood and several weeks later his body was discovered in the Shoalhaven River.

He was by nature modest and was not ambitious for ambition's sake — he aimed rather to achieve excellence in whatever he tackled. He worked assiduously and with remarkable dedication to provide an environment for scholarship and research accomplishment by those around him.

He abjured the rush for fame and fortune that began to overtake much university science in the 1980s, and was a campus activist for educational quality and academic independence generally, and for the excellence of the ANU in science specifically.

He wrote and spoke persuasively in defence of universities against the onslaughts of economic rationalism and commercial exploitation, and quietly but effectively spoke his mind in committees for the need to promote opportunities for the talented individual in research and scholarship.

Beyond his academic life, he was a skillful and enthusiastic photographer, and was awarded Photographer of the Year by the ACT Photographic Society on several occasions.

Maurie loved music and was an avid concertgoer. He sang regularly with the ANU Choral Society. He loved too the Australian bush, the European countryside, and the alps of Europe and other parts of the world, tramping many hundreds of kilometres. He also loved cross-country skiing. He read widely and was active in Subud.

To his wide circle of friends and colleagues Maurie was an inspiration — articulate, learned, a searcher and questioner, a thorough democrat, patient and tireless in the attention he gave to the tasks before him.

He was a fearless comrade in the struggles in which his conscience involved him over the three decades that he lived in Canberra, including those concerned with the importance of universities and the ABC.

Maurie was a loving father and mentor for Radha, David and Gabrielle. To his wife Anna he was a lifelong soulmate and friend. He is sorely missed and mourned by his family, his colleagues and friends.

Original publication

Citation details

Geoffrey Smith and Peter Stewart, 'Weidmann, Maurice (1936–2001)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/weidmann-maurice-1020/text1021, accessed 25 November 2017.

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