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 A large collection of his work still languishes unpublished in the Vienna Natural History Museum.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.
Happy national day Austria - and thanks for sending us Ferdinand!