Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller Project
Ferdinand von Mueller was one of Australia's best-known nineteenth-century scientists. He earned a considerable international reputation for his work in describing the Australian flora. Employed by the Victorian Government, he was Government Botanist (1853–1896) as well as Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens (1857–1873). Mueller's interests lay not just in botany, but also in fields as diverse as geology, exploration and acclimatisation. In the course of his career he corresponded with scientists in many countries.
The aim of the project is to find, edit and publish Mueller's body of correspondence. The examination of his correspondence has shed light on:
- the scientific and corporate history of the National Herbarium of Victoria and the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
- aspects of the scientific and social life of the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century
- the development of our understanding of the Australian flora and the study of the natural environment
- our early learned institutions and the place of science in colonial society
- the nature of Australian colonial administration
- the exploration of much of Australia
- the relationship of Australian scientists to the national and international scientific communities.
Since the project's inception in 1987, Professor Home has led an international team in the work of locating, translating, transcribing and editing the letters and providing explanatory footnotes. This has been a challenging project because Mueller's letter-copy books and much of his inwards correspondence have not survived. During the course of the project contact has been made with institutions across Australia and world-wide seeking copies of letters and other relevant documents.
So far over 10,000 letters have been located and included in the project's database. The secretariat for the project has been based at the Gardens from the beginning, with the result that the Gardens is widely recognised as the centre for research on Mueller and aspects of the history of science in nineteenth-century Australia. The Melbourne-based team members, working with curation staff, have assisted in solving questions on collecting details and deciphering illegible handwriting. In consequence, the standard of information in our collections database has been improved. Future goals are a definitive biography of Mueller which, unlike previous biographies, will assess his scientific contributions, and the complete correspondence on CD and as a database hosted on the Gardens' web page.
- Enquiries can be directed to the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Library
Over 750 letters have been published in Regardfully yours: selected correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller.
Home, R.W., Lucas, A.M., Maroske, S., Sinkora, D.M. and Voigt, J.H. (eds) (1998). Regardfully yours: selected correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, vol. 1: 1840–1859. Peter Lang, Bern.
Home, R.W., Lucas, A.M., Maroske, S., Sinkora, D.M. and Voigt, J.H. (eds) (2002). Regardfully yours: selected correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, vol. 2: 1860–1875. Peter Lang, Bern.
Home, R.W., Lucas, A.M., Maroske, S., Sinkora, D.M., Voigt, J.H. and Wells, M. (eds) (2006). Regardfully yours: selected correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, vol. 3: 1876–1896. Peter Lang, Bern.
Regardfully yours can be purchased at the Gardens Shop
- Rod Home (The University of Melbourne and Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
- Sara Maroske (The University of Melbourne and Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
- Helen Cohn (Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
- Arthur Lucas
- Thomas Darragh (Museum Victoria and Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
- Monika Wells (Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
- Johannes Voigt (Universität Stuttgart)
Home, R.W. (2008). Mueller, Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von. In New dictionary of scientific biography, vol. 5, pp. 204–209. Thomson Gale, Detroit.
Maroske, S. (2007). Educational exsiccatae: Ferdinand von Mueller's botanical lessons in colonial Victoria. Collections 2, 37–47.
Home, R.W. (2006). Ferdinand von Mueller, botanist of honour. Australian Heritage Winter, 66–71.
Lucas, A.M., Maroske, S. and Brown-May, A. (2006). Bringing science to the public: Ferdinand von Mueller and botanical education in Victorian Victoria.Annals of science 63, 25–57.
Maroske, S. (2006). Ferdinand Mueller and the shape of nature: nineteenth‑century systems of plant classification. Historical Records of Australian Science 17, 147–168.
Ferdinand von Mueller
A letter from Joseph Hooker to Ferdinand von Mueller, 1869
Regardfully yours: selected correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller
Last updated 19 Apr 2011