Matthes, Benno (1825–1911)

By: Claudia Hazlewood

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 23, 2020

Benno Matthes, physician and naturalist, was born at Leignitz, Silesia, on September 15, 1825, and probably took his medical degree at Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). He was an obstetrician at Cincinnati, Ohio, from January 1852 to August 1853, when he left for Texas; he arrived at Galveston on August 16. He was in Houston for a time and went on a trip to Round Rock to collect natural history specimens, a journey that he reported in a paper, "Excursion von New Orleans nach dem Urwald am Rio Colorado in Texas," in Allgemeine Deutsche Naturhistorische Zeitung 1 (1855). A type-specimen salamander that he described became known as the Ambystoma texanum Matthes. Matthes was in Germany in 1854 and 1855 but was back in Texas in 1856, living at Round Rock. He returned again to Germany to take his Ph.D. degree, probably at Halle, in 1860. He included a treatise on Texas, "Bilder aus Texas," in Reisebilder (Dresden, 1861), about the effects of drought on flora and fauna and incidents regarding American Indians and Blacks. In 1865 he was in Fayetteville, Texas, where he opened a pharmacy and practiced medicine. In the late 1860s he married Maria Meitzen; they reared two adopted daughters. On August 22, 1907, Matthes moved to Comfort, where he died on April 30, 1911.

S. W. Geiser, "Dr. Benno Matthes: An Early Texas Herpetologist," Field and Laboratory 9 (May 1941). Selma Metzenthin Raunick, "A Survey of German Literature in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 33 (October 1929). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners
  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Science
  • Scientists and Researchers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Claudia Hazlewood, “Matthes, Benno,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 03, 2021,

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September 23, 2020

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