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Schomburgk, Moritz Richard (1811–1891)

from South Australian Chronicle

Richard Schomburgk, by S. Solomon, c.1865

Richard Schomburgk, by S. Solomon, c.1865

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: 5676

The death of the venerable Dr. Sohomburgk deprives the Government of the services of an exceptionally able officer, and South Australia of one of its most useful and justly-esteemed citizens. For many years his name has been a household word in the colony he made his home, and his fame as a scientific man has extended to every part of the civilised world. The family of Schomburgk has gained distinction from more than one of its sons. It was the good fortune of the gentleman who has just died, full of years and honors, to be associated in early life with the labors of his celebrated brother, Sir Robert Schomburgk, the friend and companion of Humboldt. A man of his capacity and energetic cast of mind could hardly fail to prove an acquisition to the new country which, when settling down in life, he deliberately selected as his home. South Australia owes much to the industrious band of German settlers who, displaying the true colonising spirit, have so thoroughly identified themselves with the fortunes of the community and substantially helped its progress. The late Dr. Schomburgk was one of these. For many years before he entered the public service he labored diligently, and not unsuccessfully, as a producer in a line of industry which was then comparatively untried. His training and experience as a botanist marked him out clearly as the successor to Mr Francis when, a quarter of a century ago, the directorship of the infant Botanic Gardens became vacant. The appointment then conferred upon him has been much more than justified by the event. It furnished Dr Schomburgk with a field for the employment of his peculiar talents which he cultivated with equal credit to himself and advantage to the colony. There is hardly any exaggeration at all in the statement that the beautiful Botanic Gardens of Adelaide are his sole creation. Of none of our public institutions are we more justly proud, and with its history the name of Schomburgk will be forever inextricably linked.

If his work had not gone beyond the establishment of the loveliest flower gardens in the Southern Hemisphere Dr. Schomburgk would still be remembered with gratitude and respect. For that of itself, considering the unpromising materials with which he started, was a great achievement, By his exertions a desert was transformed into an Eden. There were no entrancing natural beauties, like the magnificent expanse of the blue waters of Port Jackson that meets the eye beyond the lawns and shrubberies of Sydney Gardens, to which it was possible for him to adapt his plans. Nor was it ever his object to construct in an area too limited for the purpose landscape gardens on the splendid scale and after the pattern of those which have arisen on the south bank of the Yarra. His aim was to call into being a glorious paradise of flowers, and he succeeded to perfection. The result was not merely a garden of unrivalled beauty in its way, an ever charming resort for the residents of Adelaide and visitors, and a source of national pride. The very existence of such a garden, demonstrating as it did the wonderful capabilities of the soil and climate, furnished an incentive to others to go and do likewise as far as their means would permit. Unquestionably the elevating taste for horticultural pursuits, which has become so general in the city and suburbs, was largely encouraged and developed by the example set by Dr. Schomburgk. He was, however, much more than a mere gardener or florist. His high position as a scientific botanist was universally recognised and there were few Australians who could boast of so long a list of honors from learned societies and foreign Governments. The Botanic Garden has an interest beyond its purely aesthetic attractions. It is a home of science as well as of beauty. It contains one of the most complete collections of botanical specimens in the world, and to those who have the mind it is a school for study as well as a resort for pleasure.

The late Dr. Schomburgk, in his anxiety to combine the useful with the ornamental, gave a distinctly practical turn to many of his botanical researches. His domain on North-terrace has been the scene of many experimental investigations into the salt ability of various plants of economic value for cultivation in this colony. He succeeded in acclimatising numerous fodder and other plants likely to prove of service to the farmer, and by the systematic distribution of seeds endeavored to bring them into general use. It is difficult to estimate the value of this branch of his work, but it has certainly been considerable. If his labors have borne somewhat less fruit than he himself ardently expected, the fault has not lain with him, but with the proverbial slowness of the people to accept and act upon new ideas. Not the least of the public services rendered by Dr. Schomburgk was his creation of the Botanic Park at the rear of the gardens. This is now the most beautiful reserve of the kind within the city bounds, and elicits the admiration of all who visit it. One could wish that the work might be continued by the reclamation of the waste ground which lies between the park and King William-road, and extends to the back of the Governor's domain and farther to the east. This unsightly area forms a pitiful contrast to the Rotunda lawn on the other side of the city road, which has gradually been enlarged and improved until it has become one of the most picturesque spots in Adelaide. The establishment of a small park to the east of King William-road would fittingly crown the work in which the late Dr. Schomburgk has had so large a share. He, as we have said, has laid the city and the colony under a heavy load of obligation, and his death inflicts a severe loss upon the community.

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Citation details

'Schomburgk, Moritz Richard (1811–1891)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/schomburgk-moritz-richard-4543/text28855, accessed 18 November 2017.

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