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Georg Balthazar Neumayer, Scientist (1826-1909)

Theodolite - Ertel, 13 Inch, 1850s

Image: Theodolite - Ertel, 13 Inch, 1850s

Source: Museum Victoria

Georg Neumayer studied at the Polytechnische Schule in Munich and at a specialist engineering school, then worked at Bogenhausen Observatory near Munich under the supervision of renowned astronomer and physicist Johann von Lamont. Keen to advance navigational science, Neumayer sailed to Brazil to gain experience, then trained in navigation under astronomer Christian Carl Rumker in Hamburg.

Neumayer sailed to Australia as a seaman in 1852 and spent some time as a gold digger at Bendigo. He saw the potential of conducting scientific research in Australia and Antarctica, particularly in the fields of magnetism, meteorology and hydrology.

He returned to Melbourne in 1857 with the necessary scientific instruments and some funds from the King of Bavaria. At first he faced some suspicion from local scientists, but he quickly gained the support of Melbourne's German community, and he finally persuaded the government to establish the Flagstaff Observatory for magnetic and meteorological research.

Neumayer remained in Melbourne as Director of the Flagstaff Observatory from 1857 until 1862, when the observatory was combined with the Williamstown Observatory to form the new Melbourne Observatory. Neumayer remained in charge of the magnetic and meteorological research until he returned to Germany in 1864. In his seven years in Melbourne he had undertaken and supervised an extensive system of meteorological and magnetic observations around the state, and continued to publish the results of his work after returning to Germany.

Back in Germany, Neumayer continued his scientific career as a hydrographer to the German Navy and as director of the Hamburg Oceanic Observatory. He promoted scientific exploration of the Antarctic, resulting in a German expedition in 1901-1903.

References:
Home, R.W. (1991). 'George Neumayer and the Flagstaff Observatory, Melbourne,' in J. Tampke & D. Walker, eds, From Berlin to the Burdekin, Sydney: New South Wales University Press, pp.40-53.
Home, R.W. & Kretzer, Hans-Jochen. (1991). 'The Flagstaff Observatory, Melbourne: New Documents Relating to its Foundation,' Historical Records of Australian Science, 8: pp.213-243.
Swan, R.A. (1974). 'Neumayer, Georg Balthasar von (1826-1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 5, Melbourne University Press, pp.329-331.

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