I visited Melbourne in the winter of 2016 (the southern hemisphere’s winter, that is) seeking primary sources on the spread of eucalyptus to the Mediterranean region in the 19th century. Thanks to the generous support of the Cosmos Club of DC Foundation, I spent two months immersed in the physical and literary world of the German-Australian botanist Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896). Mueller immigrated to Australia in 1848, taking the helm of the Melbourne gardens nine years later. Over the next four decades, he engaged in a staggeringly rich correspondence from the edge of the British Empire with the world’s scientific elite, including the Hookers of Kew, Darwin, Agardh, Gray and Liebig, as well as lesser known practitioners of science on every continent. Much of that correspondence was lost after his death; several thousand letters have been reassembled, translated, and made available for researchers in Melbourne.
- Home, R.W., et al. Regardfully Yours: Selected Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, vols. 1-3. Bern: Peter Lang, 1998-2006.
- Maroske, Sara. “Australian and Indian Plants: Making Connexions in Global Botany.” Historical Records of Australian Science 23, no. 2 (2012): 107-119.
Jackson Perry is a PhD candidate in history at Georgetown University who studies the transformation of modern Mediterranean environments. His dissertation examines the introduction of the Eucalyptus tree genus to the Mediterranean region in the nineteenth century.