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Dr August Scheidel

ScheidelDr Scheidel can be considered the father of the modern cement industry in Australia. He was born in Heidelberg, Germany, on 17th August 1859. He received his PhD from Freiburg University in 1880 (aged 21). His thesis dealt with an aspect of organic chemistry. Dr Scheidel came to Australia from Germany via New Zealand. He built cyanide extraction plants for gold at mines in New Zealand in 1891, in California in 1893-4, and at Coolgardie Western Australia in 1895-96. He was on the executive of the Coolgardie Chamber of Mines. He was a pioneer and world expert in the field of cyanide extraction plants and enjoyed international recognition - he wrote a book on cyanide extraction for the California Dept. of Mines in 1894. He probably substantially aided the gold industry in NZ and Western Australia. He was Managing Director and Technical Manager of New Zealand Mines Trust which had mines in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and NZ.

In 1900 Scheidel established the company Commonwealth Portland Cement Ltd and was Managing Director until 1918. He registered the company in Sydney in December 1900, just before Australia's federation; it may have been the first company to use the word "Commonwealth" in its name. This cement plant produced around 40% of Australia's Portland cement around 1912. Portland cement is a special type of cement invented around the early 1800s - the name became accepted around the world for the best quality hydraulic cement (ie cement which can set underwater).

Scheidel was Consul General for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Sydney from 1898-1902. He received decorations from the German and Italian courts. Scheidel was not interned during the First World War. He appears to have stayed in Australia until around 1929. On 2nd May 1932 he died in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

A few pages on Dr Scheidel appeared in 1896 in a book about famous persons in Western Australia.
(Kimberly, W. B. 1897. History of Western Australia: A Narrative of her Past, with Biographies of her Leading Men. F.W. Niven, Melbourne)

(This information was provided by Peter Benkendorff, who himself emigrated from Germany to Australia.)

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