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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Friday, 26 October 2012

On This Day, 26 October; Austrian National Day

On 25 October 1955 the last of the occupying troops (from Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the USA) left Austria where they had been stationed since the end of World War 2; the next day has been marked ever since as the Austrian national day. It was also on that day that Austria legalised its required position of permanent neutrality.

Apart from the fact that every travelling Australian has been presumed at some time to be Austrian, there have been relatively few connections between the countries, certainly from a natural history perspective. However one Austrian contributed greatly to early European biology in Australia, though he is sadly little known. His name is Ferdinand Bauer, and much better judges than I have regarded him as perhaps the best biological artist to visit the country. Orphaned at birth, he developed his craft, as well as studying Linnaean taxonomy and microscopy, to the point where at age 26 (in 1786) he was invited to accompany the great British biologist John Sibthorp on a tour of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean; some of his wealth of paintings from this trip helped illustrate the mighty Flora Graecae, one of the most significant botanical works of the age.

This set the scene for him to be head-hunted by Sir Joseph Banks to accompany Matthew Flinders on the Investigator on the most important of all the British scientific expeditions to Australia, along with the Scottish botanist Robert Brown, also one of the greatest of the age in his field. The body of work that Bauer produced from this trip is just breathtaking; plants, mammals, birds, fish, crustaceans, landscapes - and all stunning works of art, as well as biologically accurate. 
Bauer's Banksia coccinea, from Flora Novae Hollandiae, per Wikipedia.
This species also featured in a previous posting.
When Brown's best specimens from years of work were lost when the ship the Porpoise struck a reef off Queensland, Brown and Bauer took lodgings in Sydney and set about replacing them. Back home Bauer tried to publish an account of his adventures but with money short at the end of the Napoleonic wars it failed commercially. More importantly Bauer was not a self-promoter and after his death he faded from the public memory. A large collection of his work still languishes unpublished in the Vienna Natural History Museum. This is a link to some paintings in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.

His slightly older brother Franz worked for Banks as botanical artist at Kew Gardens for 50 years; he was apparently equally talented. Banks at least ensured the brothers are not totally forgotten in Australia when he named the lovely shrub genus Bauera for them; there are four species now recognised, all in south-eastern Australia.
Bauera rubioides, Bundanoon, New South Wales; above and below.


Additionally Flinders named Cape Bauer on western Eyre Peninsula (in South Australia) for him. In the dark days of World War I, to jingoistic ears it sounded German which was enough to cause it to be changed, but since then saner counsel has prevailed.
Cape Bauer near Streaky Bay, South Australia.
 Happy national day Austria - and thanks for sending us Ferdinand!


1 comment:

Flabmeister said...

There is one of Bauer's works in the Lewin exhibition at the National Library. An interesting contrast between the two artistic styles.