Amalie Dietrich – scientist and adventurer

Amalie Dietrich 1821-1891

Amalie was a German collector who was employed by the Godeffroy Museum of Natural History to collect botanical specimens in Queensland.  Between 1863-1872, Amalie adventured alone through the wildest areas of Queensland, collecting specimens which were sent back to Europe. Her daughter Charitas was left home in Germany with friends, but was her regular correspondent and confidant.

Before she left Germany Amalie was taught

how to handle firearms, to skin and eviscerate birds and mammals, and – with a view to Aboriginal relics – how to pack human skulls and skeletons. 

She was also provided with a pocket lens, a microscope, six insect cages, rags for packing, 20 pounds of tow, five quires of tissue paper, bottles for live snakes, gunpowder and small shot, percussion caps, 100 jars and stoppers, two boxes of poison and … an English dictionary.

Amalie was an outsider to Australian society, and therefore was not constricted by societal expectations of the day about female behavior.  Unlike other women collectors, she received acclaim from her contemporaries.  On her return to Germany she was presented with an important Fellowship, awards, and a position as Curator of the Hamburg Botanical museum.

Compare this with the ends of the careers of Georgiana Molloy and Elizabeth Gould in childbirth related illnesses at a young age, in relative obscurity, and with their scientific contributions largely unrecognized.

Picture from Australian Dictionary of Biography

Comments welcome.  I’m very happy to be corrected on anything above.

I’d be very interested in any information or stories about Amalie which contribute to our thoughts on women and leadership.

References and further reading

Ann Moyal. 1986. A bright and savage land. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books, p 94 citing FM Spoehr  ‘White Falcon’ The House of Godeffroy  and its commercial and scientific role in the Pacific, Pacific Books, 1965

www.wisenet-australia.org/ISSUE42/dietrich.htm

Australian Dictionary of Biography

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About Jane Elix

I don't have enough bandwidth to deal with this www.janeelix.com
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