Book: Science of Burke and Wills

In 2010, the Royal Society of Victoria commissioned a group of researchers to produce a book on Burke and Wills: The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition.

The State Library of Victoria provided newly-scanned images of the scientific paintings and drawings made by Ludwig Becker and Hermann Beckler. The book was published by CSIRO in October 2011 at $59.95. The book can be purchased in good bookshops or on-line from CSIRO. The book has been very popular and is now into its third reprint.

In 1860, the Royal Society of Victoria initiated the Victorian Exploring Expedition as a serious scientific exploration of the hitherto unexplored centre of Australia. Members of the Expedition were issued with detailed scientific instructions on the types of measurements and observations to be carried out covering about a dozen areas if science.

The instructions were subsequently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of 1860. But the tragic ending of the Expedition meant that many of the results of the scientific investigations actually carried out were not reported or published. This book rectifies this historic omission.

The book includes the original instructions, documents the actual science carried out, as recorded in collections of flora and fauna, drawings and paintings, notebooks and diaries, and provides analysis and comment on these products of the Expedition. It reveals for the first time the true extent and limits of the scientific achievements of both the Burke and Wills Expedition and the various relief expeditions which followed.

To order your copy from the Royal Society of Victoria, download the order form. Or go to the CSIRO Publishing website to see more details and buy on-line.