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Last summer, I decided to finally travel to Australia, and my visit there was framed by encounters with sculptures at its beginning and end. On my first day in Sydney, I walked past the New South Wales State Library, and there stood a statue of Mathew Flinders, someone whose name wasn't familiar to me. The attached plaque commemorated his circumnavigation of Australia in 1801-1803 on a mapping expedition for the British Navy I was to meet up with Flinders again when I began reading about the early history of Australian biology, because the botanist Robert Brown and the artist Ferdinand Bauer were members of the expedition (Hewson, 1999). Brown spent five years in Australia and then he returned to England, as did Bauer. The latter converted his sketches of plants and animals into finished watercolors, and Brown identified many new species in the material he had collected. Across the street from the state library is the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, which was founded in 1816. That is early in the city's history, because the first settlement, a penal colony, wasn't established there until 1788. The founding of the garden reflects the efforts of Governor Lachlan Macquarie to change the character of the colony, moving away from its prison origins. According to Robert Hughes (1987), who wrote a detailed history of Australia's penal colonies, Britain was attempting to deal with its overcrowded prisons and social unrest by sending repeat offenders and political prisoners (mainly Irish dissidents) as far away as possible. These men and women were put to work developing the fledgling colony, including working for colonists who had the guts and entrepreneurial spirit to travel on the prison ships. After their terms were served, the former prisoners were free to fend for themselves in Australia or return to England, though few had the money for this. Most stayed, and many became successful business people and ranchers: solid, upstanding citizens, the ancestors of many present-day Australians.

Science & Nature
January 1
National Association of Biology Teachers
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