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» Hermann Beckler (1828-1914)

Hermann Beckler (1828-1914)

Hermann Beckler
Reproduced with permission from the State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Born in Hochstadt, Bavaria, Beckler studied medicine at Munich and graduated in 1855. He also pursued studies in botany, zoology and mineralogy. When he came to New South Wales in 1856, he had hopes of doing valuable work in the discovery of new plant species. His medical career did not flourish, and when he arrived in Melbourne in 1859, he made contact with the circle of German scientists such as Ferdinand Von Mueller and Georg Neumayer, who were planning the Victorian Exploring Expedition. They encouraged him to apply and with their support, he was appointed as doctor and botanist.

Beckler, however, was so dismayed by Burke's erratic behaviour leading to the resignation of George Landells that he offered his own resignation. It was accepted, but he agreed to stay with the men and supplies left at Menindie, which were meant to follow and form a depot at Cooper's Creek. He tended those who succumbed to dysentery and scurvy but he could do little against these conditions, which were caused by malnutrition.

After testifying to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the expedition in 1862, he returned to Germany and spent the rest of his life as a village doctor.  He wrote a very valuable account of the expedition, which was published in English in 1993 as A Journey to Cooper's Creek.