This book challenges the common assumption that little or nothing of scientific value was achieved during the Burke and Wills expedition. The Royal Society of Victoria initiated the Victorian Exploring Expedition as a serious scientific exploration of the hitherto unexplored centre of Australia. Members of the expedition were sent 10 pages of detailed instructions on scientific measurements and observations to be carried out, covering about a dozen areas of science. The tragic ending of the expedition meant that the results of the scientific investigations were not reported or published. Burke and Wills: The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition rectifies this historic omission. It includes the original instructions as well as numerous paintings and drawings, documents the actual science undertaken as recorded in notebooks and diaries, and analyses the outcomes. It reveals for the first time the true extent and limits of the scientific achievements of both the Burke and Wills expedition and the various relief expeditions which followed. Importantly, this new book has led to a re-appraisal of the successes of the journey.
It will be a compelling read for historians of science and natural history, and those interested in Australian history and heritage.
"Becker's work in particular is world-class scientific illustration and landscape art, created under the worst imaginable circumstances, and it is beautifully reproduced here. A book that gives a new picture of an important event in Australian history, it is necessary for scholars in the field, and would be informative and enjoyable for any reader interested in natural history, art, Victorian exploration, or Australia."
Doug McCann is Honorary Fellow at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne. Bernie Joyce is Honorary Principal Fellow at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne.
Foreword / Peter Thorne -- List of contributors - Acknowledgements - Introduction / Dave Phoenix -- Chapter 1 Conflicting priorities: exploration, science, politics and personal ambition / Doug McCann and Bernie Joyce -- Chapter 2 William John Wills as scientist / Frank Leahy -- Chapter 3 Geology, soils and landscapes of the expedition route / Bernie Joyce and Doug -- Chapter 4 The botanical legacy of Ferdinand Mueller and Hermann Beckler / Linden Gillbank -- Chapter 5 Zoology: an encounter with the fauna of Australia's unique arid environment : Introduction / Bernard Mace -- Mammals / Peter W. Menkhorst -- Birds / Rory O'Brien and Craig Robertson - Reptiles / Bernard Mace -- Fishes / Bernard Mace -- Insects and other invertebrates / Alan L. Yen -- Chapter 6 Hydrologic insights of inland Australia / C. R. Lawrence -- Chapter 7 Meteorology: a remarkable set of early inland observations / John A.T. Bye -- Chapter 8 The space between: Aboriginal people, the Victorian Exploring Expedition and the relief parties / Harry Allen -- Chapter 9 Conclusion: rewriting history / Doug McCann and Bernie Joyce -- Appendixes: Timeline of principal events / Doug -- Expedition personnel / Doug McCann -- Biographies of the principal scientists/ Dave Phoenix -- Instructions to the leader and scientific officers -- The art of the Victorian Exploring Expedition / Elizabeth Ninnis -- Index .