This unit is about Amalie Dietrich, the German botanist, collector and naturalist who worked for nearly ten years in the Queensland wilderness during the ninteenth century. Her story is the focus of the Bright Sparcs Amalie Dietrich online exhibition.
Questions and Issues
These questions and issues can act as a starting point for many discussions.
Amalie Dietrich was a controversial figure in many ways, as a woman who pursued
an unconventional career in Australia and was seen as an eccentric. Her daughter
Charitas' biased and largely fictional account of Dietrich's life also makes for
fascinating historical study.
- What was the European scientific opinion of Aboriginals in the late 1880's? Why was Dietrich asked to collect Aboriginal 'pelts' ?
- What was life like in frontier settlements in Queensland in the 1860's - 1870's? Lake Eliphinstone was a settlement, where Dietrich worked, which is no longer in existence. Why did it disappear? What sort of people lived in these locations?
- Charitas' books about her mother, Amalie Dietrich - Ein Leiben
and The Hard Road: The Life Story of Amalie Dietrich, Naturalist, 1821-1891 were initially seen as a fictional accounts, but gradually they became accepted as 'fact'. How might this have happened? What consequences does this have for historians?
- Investigate the difficulties of being a single mother in Germany in the mid-1800's and following a career in science.
- What was involved in being a collector in the wilderness?
- Dietrich was an unusual character, and she became more eccentric after her time in Australia. Investigate how her years in Queensland affected her personality, family relationships and life in Germany.
A list of world events that occurred around the time Amalie Dietrich was in Australia.
This map shows the towns where Amalie Dietrich worked. The location of Lake Eliphinstone is a guess - it was about 230 km inland from Mackay, but it is no longer a town. Similarily, the exact route she took can only be guessed at, so it is not marked on the map. She went no further north than Bowen.
There is also a grey-scale map of Queensland available here which can be photocopied for use in the class-room.
Teaching/Learning Resources Online
- Charitas Bischoff, The Hard Road: The Life Story of Amalie Dietrich, Naturalist, 1821-1891 (translated by A.L.Geddie), Martin Hopkinson, London, 1931
- Ray Sumner, A Woman in the Wilderness, The Story of Amalie Dietrich in Australia, NSW University Press, Kensington, 1993
- Denise Sutherland, 'Amalie Dietrich - a woman alone', Australasian Science, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Summer 1996) p. 64
Published by the Australian
Science Archives Project on
ASAPWeb, 18 August 1996
Comments or corrections to:
Bright Sparcs (email@example.com)
Prepared by: Denise Sutherland
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date Modified: 27 February 1998