To [Philip Sclater]1    December 1887



As you are on the Council of the R.S., I would venture to ask, whether you see your way clear to interest yourself on my behalf at the next distribution of the medals.2 This asking of mine may seem an unusual one, but I beg you to consider, 1, that I have no opportunity to meet any member of the Council in person; 2, that my works coming from such a distance and extending in volumes over more than 30 years would likely to a large extent escape notice of most members of the Council; 3, that in the very late autumn of my life I may not be destined by divine providence to live through an other year, while it would infinitely be joyful to me, having before I pass away my name enrolled on the honor list of the R.S. 4, that I am senior to men in science of extensive working in this part of the world, and as such should set the highest value on being the first in Australia, on whom the honor is conferred; — 5, that Kew surely would allow such a distinction to be extended to these portions of H. M.'s dominions, particularly in the year of the first centenary jubilee here; 6, that I was the first in Australia, who published original and ample observations for science in three languages; 7, that I am the first Australian science-author, of whom works (as regards one particular volume) have been translated into two languages and are soon to pass into two more; 8, that I am the first, who published lithograms of plants in the southern hemisphere by the hundreds (about 600 plates now chiefly quarto) always with analyses from the bud to the embryo; 9, that I commenced my various researches in Denmark and N. Germany as far back as 1840; that I attended the German Soc. of physicians & naturalists as an active member as far back as 1846, meeting then Steenstrup, Oersted, Forchhammer, Schleiden, Kunze, D'Alton, Rammelsberg, Volger, Roeper, and other illustrious men, now nearly all numbering with the dead; — 10, that I uninterruptedly worked for geography and for phytology in all its branches since 1847 here, having taken out my Doctor-degree at the University of Kiel before I left Europe, — 11, that I represent besides chemistry, having worked in Pfaffs and Himly's laboratory for two years, some alkaloids, glycosids and organic acids of Austral. plants having been discovered by me. also geology as regards particularly veget. palaeontology, two decades of pl[i]ocene3 fruits for the geologic survey here. also further geography, medicine especially therapeutics, being thus President of the Vict branch of the R Geogr. Soc. of Austr., and examiner in therapeutics and phytology at two Austral. Universities; — 12, that I have contributed to Zoology in all its branches — as you will be aware — by extensive collections through many years; 13, that the total of my volumes extends to about 40 irrespective of my share in Benthams flora Australiensis, 2/3 of its material (nearly all elaborated by myself) coming from me; — 14, that I established over 100 new genera (well acknowledged) of plants, described more than 2000 new species, and transferred over 1000 to better generic positions, adding over 1000 well founded spec to the phytography of Australia since the seven volumes were published by the great Bentham; 15, that the Royal Soc. of Victoria founded by three persons I being the only survivor in my room prior to my proceeding in 1855 with the two Gregorys to what is now known as the rich pastoral Kimberley-District (almost as large as Britain) in an expedition, which kept us away 17 months at a stretch from any settlement or any communications with the civilized world; — that under my Presidency of the Roy. Soc. of Vict. its Hall was built, and her Majestys patronage granted; 16, that my observation-lines in Australia on foot or horse extend to 30,000 (nearly) English miles, including many of the first triangulations of the Australian Alps, when some hypsometric notes were also by me taken, even the remotes4 30 miles of the Yarra River, emptying at Melbourne, being discovered from the Alps by me. — in many of the explorations (from 1847 til 1853 on my private expense) the danger of crossing unbridged rivers, breaking through waterless country and encountering the fury of the aboriginal natives being extreme; not to speak of hunger and thirst and excessive and parching heat under the canopee of heaven — on one occasion no food for five days! — one of the six votes of special promoters of geography at the Congress of Venice being accorded to me; that my exertions and influence called forth numerous expeditions those of M'Intyre, Giles, Mc[Kinlay &c]5 lately that also of Cuthbertson in New Guinea when the [th]ird mountain-zone was reached for the first time, and causing also the likely revival of antarctic exploration on my urging 3 years ago, and on my suggesting an appeal also in the interest of steam whalers at home to the Right Hon. Mr Goeschen, to whom I am known since the fourtier and fiftier years. — 17, that my efforts in a cosmopolitan spirit have given first and mainly the Eucalypts and best tan-Acacias to all warm temperate zones, have brought extensively the Conifers and endless numbers of other utilitarian plants first and largely to Australia in the interest of forest-culture and other rural industries; 18, that from the empire of plants I have always endeavoured to increase technologic industries not only here but also elsewhere, having been already one of the 12 local Commissioners for the first Paris Exhibition of 1855 here, the Right Hon. Mr Childers, General Sir Andrew Clarke and General Pasley being among my Colleagues; I being again one of the Commissioners for the Melbourne Exhibition of 1888-1889 now. — 19, that the generous spirit of men of Science throughout the world had raised me to the position of hon. or corresp. member of more than 150 science-institutions, my facility of the use of several languages giving me the means of ready communication. 20, that at the celebration of the 25 annual jubilee of the marriage of their Maj. the King and Queen of Wurttemburg I was as a representative of science raised to an equivalent of peerage of that Kingdom, and at the 50 years reign of Her Brit Majestys jubilee I became a Grand Cross of one of the S. Eur. Kingdoms, over which a Sovereign out of the House of Coburg-Gotha reigns, a Commander-Order from one of the sons in law of her maj. Queen Victoria, being graciously conferred on me also at that glorious festival. — remarks offered here with feelings of gratitude not vanity, — but also in explaining my status in approaching through you (and the kind Dr Schuster perhaps) the Council of the RS. 21 that the Governm herbarium formed by me here, and founded on the free gift of my own private collections comprises now about half a million of sheets of named plants for reference in all futurity; — that Dromedaries, Dear6 of various species, Angoras, Llamas, Alpacas, Salmon-trout, carp, and song-birds foreign ducks &c with many other kinds of other animals for the enrichment of the Austral. Fauna were first introduced here while I held (til my Garden space became too small) the Director ship of the zool. Garden also and for about a dozen years the Vice presidency of our Acclim. Soc. 22, that for 17 years I founded and directed the bot-Garden of Melbourne, built the first large Conservatories in Australia, grew first the Vict. Regia here and had at the time the largest collection of species of ornamental & utilitarian plants under cultivation in any part of Australia, and maintaining a most extensive interchange, so that no Glass-house of any pretensions anywhere is likely without plants from me, including also the ferntrees, the export of which entirely originating with me. 23, that as Vice President of the greatest Liedertafel I support the noble music art for the benefit, which it exercises on the tone of Society, development of mental faculties and of one of the best enjoyments of family life. 24, that as Patron of the Field-Naturalists Club I aid in collecting the scientific-forces here for united action and mutual learning; — 25, that as Patron of the Turn-Verein I promote the gymnastic exercises of the youths in our metropolis, and the rational enjoyments connected therewith; — but above all; 25,7 as Patron of the young christian Gentlemens Assoc. of one of the Great Presbyterian Churches and at all other occasions I seek to advance the blessing of our holy religion for ennobling us during our earthly career and for leading us to a hope of a sanctified eternity!

Should you desire to consult anyone on this wish of mine, then I advise you, to communicate with Sir H. Barkly, Sir Rich. Owen and Sir John Lubbock particularly, and I feel also sure, that besides my special Colleagues in Britain also Prof Gilbert, Dr Gladstone, Mr Ball, the Righ Hon Mr Childers, Dr Günther, Prof. Maskelyne, Prof Judd, Prof Etheridge and others would aid any movement in my favor.

As I cannot present myself personally, such a step as consulting them, would be quite justifiable in my case, so exceptional from antipodal distance. With some of those, mentioned by me, you are probably befriended personally.

[Ferd. von Mueller]8


Victoria Regia

Probably written in December 1887 or early January 1888, apparently to P. Sclater (see P. Sclater to W. Thiselton-Dyer, 14 February 1888 that accompanies M's letter in the file, where Sclater asks Thiselton-Dyer to look at the ‘enclosed extraordinary letter fr. Baron v. Müller’.) A version of M's letter was published in Powell (1978).
Sclater was not then on the Council of the Royal Society and indicated to Thiselton-Dyer (see n. 1) that he would write to that effect to M. He also informed Thiselton-Dyer that ‘[Mueller] seems to me to have done some good work’. Maxwell Masters reported in a letter to J. Hooker, 8 March 1888 (RBG Kew, Archives, miscellaneous reports, Melbourne, Mueller, vol. 1, p. 128), that M 'is burning with desire' for the Royal Medal, 'and writes to me frequently about it'. Masters judged that M 'has certainly deserved well not only on botanical but on geographical grounds'. The awarding to M of one of the Royal Society's two Royal Medals for that year was announced at the Society's Anniversary Meeting on 30 November 1888; see M to G. Stokes, 1 January 1889.
Partly obscured by binding.
editorial addition.

Please cite as “FVM-87-12-00,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 16 September 2021,