The Way Back: A Walk Along the Creek

John Matthias Kuehne was a polymath. A professor at UT, he pioneered work on electromagnetism, eventually chairing the physics department. He was tasked with scouting the location for the McDonald Observatory. He was a singer and actor who occasionally got top billing in Austin Little Theater plays. A budding horticulturist, he grafted trees in his garden. But perhaps his most lasting contribution to society was his other hobby: photography.

Kuehne took the above photograph in the 1930s of a man and a woman walking along Shoal Creek. While it’s in black and white, he experimented widely with color, and is believed to have taken the first color photographs of campus. Upon his death in 1960, his family donated his prolific set of glass-plate negatives to the Texas History Center, and a few months later, his work was immortalized in a photography retrospective in this very magazine. The accompanying text notes a familiar refrain Kuehne used when explaining how he maintained such a vast array of creative pursuits: “He liked to think of himself as being just a little older than a freshman.”

Photograph courtesy of the John Matthias Kuehne Photograph Collection, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History



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