John Mathai, CIE (10 January 1886–1959) was an economist who served as India’s first Railway Minister and subsequently as India’s Finance Minister, taking office shortly after the presentation of India’s first Budget, in 1948.
Dr. John Matthai was educated at the Madras Christian College and obtained his Arts and Law Degrees from the Madras University. He practiced law at the Madras High Court for four years and then went to the U.K. for further studies. He obtained his B. Lit. Degree from Oxford and D.Sc. from the London School of Economics.
On his return to India, Dr. Matthai entered Madras Government service in 1918 as an Officer on Special Duty in the Co-operative Department. He was appointed Professor of Economics at the Presidency College in 1920 and became Professor of Indian Economics of the Madras University in 1922. He was also a Member of the Madras Legislative Council in the same year. In 1925, Dr. Matthai joined the Indian Tariff Board as Member and served as the Chairman of the Board from 1931 to 1934. In the following year he was appointed Director-General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics at Calcutta.
In September 1946, Dr. John Matthai was appointed Finance Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He was Member for Industry and Supply in the Interim Government, became Minister for Railways and Transport of the Government of India in 1947 and Finance Minister, the following year. He relinquished the Finance Ministership in 1950.Among the many public offices, which Dr. Matthai held, are the Chairmanships of the Taxation Enquiry Commission and the State Bank of India, and the Vice-Chancellorships of Bombay and Kerala Universities. When the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, came into being in 1957, he was elected President of the Court of Governor