University biographical mosaics – Matthias Piller

Two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1773, Pope Clement XIII dissolved the Jesuit order, accelerating the process of the university's transfer to the state. Between 1635 and 1773, many distinguished Jesuits of great knowledge taught at our university, leaving a lasting mark on the history of the institution. In July our feature is on the owner of the collection, that forms the basis of the university’s mineral and rock collection, Matthias Piller. 

Matthias Piller was born in Graz in 1733 and entered the Jesuit order in 1750. From 1763 until the dissolution of the order in 1773, he led the Theresianum in Vienna, where he taught theology and natural history. From 1774, he became the first teacher of natural history (zoology and mineralogy) at the University of Nagyszombat. The following year, he wrote his textbook, which later appeared in several editions. In 1782, together with Lajos Mitterpacher, he took part in a trip to Slavonia, during which he made several natural history and ethnographic observations, as well as described new plant species. A separate volume was published about the trip. Matthias Piller’s huge collection of minerals, plants and paleontology was bought by the state for the university in 1800. This collection became the basis of the university’s mineral and rock collection. 

Source/author of illustration:
Illustration of beetles collected on Piller’s trip to Slavonia. (Piller, Matthias – Mitterpacher, Ludovicus: Iter per Poseganam Sclavoniae provinciam. Buda, 1783.)