Leichhardt: A Scientist in a Strange Land

Leichhardt Remembered

"The striving after new things…into the solitude of the bush to speak there with the trees, the rocks and the birds and to meditate on the workings of nature"

Leichhardt diary entry, 2 May 1844

Leichhardt’s journeys were very unlike the expeditions of other explorers of the mid 19th century. His goal was not to open land or explore new routes to expedite the colonisation of Australia. He considered the continent a vast laboratory; he also came to recognise Aboriginal people as keepers of a deep and complex knowledge of their environment and his observations of Aboriginal society have aided in the successful determination of Native Title for some Aboriginal people.

Across Australia today Leichhardt is remembered with suburbs, highways, a local council, a Federal electorate, a river, a modest mountain range, a special edition truck and a large number of streets and businesses all named in his honour. Scientists, recognising the quality and importance of his work, have named numerous species in his honour. Artists have recorded music and painted portraits of him and the landscapes he visited, while the great literary work Voss, based on Patrick White’s interpretation of the character of Leichhardt, won the inaugural Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1957. Two hundred years after his birth, Leichhardt is still making his mark in Australia.

The scientific legacy of Ludwig Leichhardt

The scientific legacy of Ludwig Leichhardt

Leichhardt’s work continues to inspire scientists today, including those from the Queensland Museum who have named a large number of new species in his honour.

Leichhardt's Velvetfish

Leichhardt's Velvetfish

One of new species named to honour Leichhardt is the small, and possibly rare, Velvetfish found in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Leichhardt's Grasshopper

Leichhardt's Grasshopper

While not officially named after Leichhardt, the vibrant colours of this grasshopper, commonly known as “Leichhardt’s Grasshopper”, make it one of Australia’s most spectacular.

Leichhardt and his cultural legacy

Leichhardt and his cultural legacy

The recently published and unedited Leichhardt diaries have revealed the explorer as a very different man to the anti-German caricature painted by Australian author Patrick White.

The use of Leichhardt’s research in the Jangga Native Title claim

The use of Leichhardt’s research in the Jangga Native Title claim

The observations and diary entries of Leichhardt have provided support to Aboriginal Native Title determinations relating to traditional Indigenous connections to land.

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